Sling Blade

Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed, and stars in this impressive first feature (1996), a Faulknerian parable about a semiretarded misfit from a small southern town who emerges from prison 25 years after killing his mother and her lover. Perhaps the most remarkable thing here is Thornton's nuanced performance, but the film has other rare virtues: all the characters are fully and richly fleshed out (with some unexpected turns by John Ritter and singer Dwight Yoakam), and the story's construction is carefully measured. Basically it's a movie about goodness, which makes it both old-fashioned and unexpected (according to Thornton, one of the main influences was Frankenstein). The secondary cast includes J.T. Walsh and Robert Duvall. Cut by nine minutes by Miramax from its original festival running time.

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