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Sling Blade (1996) - Blu-ray Review

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Sling Blade (1996) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

5 starsIt is a sad fact that talent doesn’t necessarily equate to a career of note or at all in Hollywood. There are literally hundreds of thousands of talented people out there that will never get their shot in the spotlight. Every so often, however, someone manages to bridge this gap from obscurity to the silver screen and the attention of the world. Billy Bob Thornton, a middle-aged man from Arkansas with limited previous credits, not only traversed that oh so shaky bridge, but he did it on self-written platinum ticket called Sling Blade.

Based on a short film Thornton wrote and starred in called Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, (a little think piece on the merits of parole for certain types of prisoners), Thornton expanded the story of Karl Childers, a developmentally delayed man who has been in prison for murder since he was twelve. Suddenly finding himself paroled and free on the street without a friend in the world, Karl happens upon a young boy, and after offering to help him carry laundry strikes up an unlikely friendship. A series of events, both fortunate and not, put Karl on a journey of discovery that teaches him about love, family, and tragically sets him back on the road to murder.

This Oscar winning screenplay is one of perfection. It is no small achievement to write a character responsible for the acts that Karl is and yet still make him endearing. The economy and simplicity of the dialogue belies the complexity of Karl’s journey. Each character is what I can only assume is a distillation of folk Thornton spent a lifetime listening to, such is there believability.

Thornton’s debut at directing also shows a skill that belies his experience at the time. Shot on a micro-budget, Sling Blade confidently depicts an environment (Arkansas) to which Thornton is intimately familiar. That short hand allows him to perfectly blend simple and patient shots, allowing characters to fill the frame, alongside some beautifully composed wide shots that give the area a sombre beauty.

All the supporting cast, some of whom had never acted before, are pitch-perfect in their respective roles. Dwight Yoakam’s portrayal of the film’s antagonist Dale is a perfect foil for Karl’s tenuous immersion into normal life. Robert Duvall, John Ritter, J.Y Walsh, in fact all the bit part players give their all to the story, and it is a testament to the script that actors of this calibre came to contribute in such small roles.

This film is one of those rare few that are the living embodiment of the perfect storm. The script, the cast, and the direction are so authentic and so immersive that it’s almost impossible to attain. Billy Bob Thornton may have been one of the lucky ones, in terms of statistics, but Sling Blade is a rare testament to just how much he deserves it, since he’s responsible for all three. I’d give the film 6 out of 5 were it possible.


Film Details

Sling Blade (1996) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including descriptions of violent and sexual behavior
Runtime: 135 mins
Director: Billy Bob Thornton
Writer: Billy Bob Thornton
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh , Lucas Black
Genre: Drama
Tagline: A simple man. A difficult choice.
Memorable Movie Quote: "What'cha doin' with that lawn mower blade Karl?"
Theatrical Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: Release Date: March 15, 1997
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 11, 2014
Synopsis: Karl Childers, a simple man hospitalized since his childhood murder of his mother and her lover, is released to start a new life in a small town.


Sling Blade (1996) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Available on Blu-ray - February 11, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (Traditional), Thai, Turkish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; German: DTS 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-50); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

This MPEG-4 AVC transfer is a marked improvement over the DVD releases, specifically in the colour timing. Gone are the washed out hues of the non HD releases that preceded it. In indoor scenes, or scenes of darker composition, grain is more prevalent. There are some inconsistencies with flesh tones as well, depending on locations, where sometimes they come off a bit red and other times look washed out.

The DTS-HD 5.1 sound is an effective, crisp presentation, but with a film that is mostly dialogue one can’t expect to see your surround speakers working up a sweat.



  • None

Special Features:

  • Special Features are copious. There are lengthy documentaries on Billy Bob Thornton and the genesis and production of Sling Blade, most of which was found on the previously released ‘Director’s Cut’ DVD. It is one of the most aptly personal collections of supplementary currently on offer and a true addition of value to the Blu-ray.


Sling Blade (1996) - Blu-ray Review

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