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Sling Blade is a story that navigates us, by means of a truly original character, through a familiar mileau and familiar issues in such a way
that we see it all as if for the first time. Karl Childers is the perhaps mentally challenged, certainly emotionally abused anti-hero of a morality play where the central figure knows right from wrong, and choses his actions accordingly... but leaves us shocked, nonetheless.

The writing, by first time writer/director Billy Bob Thornton, is not preachy. The acting is absolutely devoted (Thornton injured himself from maintaining the posture of the central character), if uneven in the supporting cast. Somehow, Dwight Yokum's suckiness in the role of the villain serves only to make him all the more reprehensible. The pace is my only complaint: it's a bit slow in the middle. Once the central characters and themes are introduced, they all seem to camp out a bit before progressing. It's well worth staying tuned in, however, as this film has one of the most powerful endings in my recollection.

The music in this is sweet without being sappy. The costumes and settings convey the working class mileau without being cheesy. The whole project walks a fine line between the familiar and the strange. It's a very strong first time showing from Thornton, and still one of his finest hours.