Old Stuff

Sling Blade (1996)

Directed by Billy Bob Thornton

Sling Blade (1996) -- won't you be my neighbor

Student films of this caliber are made all the time. I know because I've seen my share. For the most part, they're shorter which is a good thing. I wish "Sling Blade" had been shorter. As a thirty-minute student film it would have been great but clocking in well over two hours, it's a bear. Billy Bob Thornton plays a cross between Forrest Gump and Popeye the Sailor Man. Released from a mental institution after twenty years (for hacking his mother and her lover to death), Billy Bob heads home without a cent, a friend, not to mention a brain in his head. The ex-con takes a shine to a boy who is being terrorized by his mother's beer-swillin' hump, a totally type-cast Dwight Yoakam. A Zippy the Pinhead-looking John Ritter whines about the situation as a co-worker and friend of the kid's mom. The plot unfolds at a snail's pace until a totally predictable finish which is handled in a surprisingly anticlimactic and bloodless fashion. The movie could have used a little Peckinpah at the end but Billy Bob Thornton seems to know better than to upset the art-house crowd with too much gore during a murder. Anyway, this flick is best viewed without thinking too much about what's going on. The ninny-mom's handling of her Ike Turner-like beau makes her a perfect candidate for the Hedda Nussbaum award. Her complete lack of concern for the close relationship between her pubescent son and a notorious forty-something year-old ax murderer is certain to make her The North American Man/Boy Love Association's Mother-of-the-Decade! * A friend who read this review before going to press has informed me that "Sling Blade" WAS a student film before it was stretched into a feature. I swear, I didn't know! But as a film school vet, I can smell the stench of student-grade film making a mile away (besides making stinky student films myself!). -- Rating: $0.75

Tom Graney -- copyright Hollywood Outsider 1997

Old Stuff