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DVD review: Sling Blade can still cut it

By Arthur J Pais
August 20, 2009 10:18 IST
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A mildly retarded man Karl Childers finally returns to his childhood home after being a psychiatric hospital for over two decades for murdering his abusive mother and her brutal lover.

Karl gets a job fixing small motors at a local repair shop. Soon he befriends a young boy, Frank, and moves into his house at the invitation of  his mother, Linda.

As the bond between Karl and Frank develops, life becomes complicated once again for Karl as he has to deal with Linda's abusive and violent boyfriend Doyle.

The story of Karl and his small circle of his friends became a small but an arthouse hit film Sling Blade which won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for actor Billy Bob Thornton. He also directed the film and starred as Karl. Nothing that Thornton has done since then compares anywhere near the raw passion and riveting drama in Sling Blade.

Sling Blade, distributed by Miramax (a wing of Disney) will be out on Blu-Ray Hi-Def early next month. The film was given an R rating in America for its strong language and the description of violent and sexual behavior. Also debuting early next month on Blu-Ray is another Walt Disney Home Entertainment movie, The Waterboy, a mainstream hit featuring Adam Sandler.

Sling Blade also received some of the best reviews in the year 1996.

'There is pain, humour, irony and sweetness in the character,' wrote Roger Ebert in Chicago Sun-Times, ' and a voice and manner so distinctive, he is the most memorable movie character I've seen in a long time.'

The film, which can be as compelling as any successful arthouse film released today, had these taglines: Sometimes a hero comes from the most unlikely place; A simple man. A difficult choice.

The dialogue in the film was at once pithy and penetrating.

Frank: Mama's got a boyfriend now. His name is Doyle Hargraves. He works construction so he makes a pretty good living, but he don't help Mama out with any money though. He ain't no good. He's mean to her. He don't like me at all. Mama says it's 'cause he's jealous that I belong to my Daddy instead of him. He spends the night at our house sometimes and he's got his own house, somebody told me it's where he can have more girlfriends. I like it on the nights he ain't at our house. I ain't so nervous then.

Karl: : How come her still being girlfriends and all with him if he's mean to her?

Frank: She says it's for the times he's good to her. She's lonely since Daddy died, sometimes she says she don't know why. He threatened to kill her if she ever left him. My daddy would kill him if he were still here and somebody was mean to Mama. Vaughan, he's real good to Mama. Vaughan that you met. But he's not able to do anything to Doyle. He's funny, you know. Not funny "Ha-Ha", funny queer. He likes to go with men instead of women. That makes him not able to fight too good. He sure is nice, though. He's from St. Louis, people who are queer get along better in a big town. I wish he liked to go with women, I'd rather he be Mama's boyfriend than Doyle.

As a director, Thornton not only infused the film with tension, atmosphere and suspense but also good performances. Especially noteworthy is the Emmy winner Dwight Yokum who plays the nasty boyfriend , Doyle.

Extras: The Blu-Ray addition features plenty of engaging material, making the edition one of the most noteworthy discs in the year to have so many goodies. Here are some -- Audio Commentary with Billy Bob Thornton ; Mr Thornton Goes To Hollywood; A Roundtable Discussion with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Mickey Jones and Producer David Bushell; A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall; A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois;A Conversation with Robert Duvall; On the Set and Bravo Profiles: Billy Bob Thornton

The Disc also plays on Playstation 3

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Arthur J Pais