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David2.jpg (1924 bytes)This powerful film was made for less than a million dollars! It's about a Christ-like retarded man who seeks redemption and justice. His actions bring Judgement Day. 
Review by David Bruce
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S
LING BLADE
(1997)

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RICHARD CORLISS, Time Magazine, says:
But those who have seen Thornton as Karl Childers in Sling Blade can't get that face out of their bad dreams. The skin is celibate smooth, the eyes clamped shut to keep the demons out, or in. And when the pursed mouth opens, it speaks... of dreadful sins with Old Testament vengeance.
Karl Childers: Billy Bob Thornton,
Doyle Hargraves: Dwight Yoakam,
Charles Bushman: J.T. Walsh,
Vaughan Cunningham: John Ritter,
Frank Wheatley: Lucas Black,
Karl's father: Robert Duvall.

Written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.

Running time: 135 minutes.
Rated R (for strong language, including descriptions of violent and sexual behavior).
     Thornton spins a complex, yet simple story about a retarded man, who 25 years earlier killed his mother in a rage after finding her having sex with a very abusive man.

     Upon his release from a mental institution, Karl befriends Frank (Lucas Black), a fatherless boy whose kindly mother (Natalie Canerday) has shacked up with an abusive man, Doyle.  Doyle is wickedly portrayed by country legend Dwight Yoakam. Doyle drinks, lambasts his adoptive family and threatens others with physical violence.

     There is never much doubt about the Judgment Day event that concludes the story.  But getting there makes for a very compelling spiritual adventure.
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Karl carries books with him: the Bible, a book about Christmas, and a book on how to be a carpenter. Very interesting, I thought.
    When Karl meets the abusive Doyle for the first time, Doyle asks Karl about the books that Karl always carries with him.
     "What's all them books?"
     "Never mind. One of 'em's a Bible," replies Karl.
     "Do you believe in the Bible, Karl?"
     "Yes sir, a good deal of it."
     "I don't understand none of it.  This one beget that one and that one beget that one.  Beget.  Beget.  Lo and behold.  Just how retarded are you?"

     This dialogue represents a major shift in Hollywood.  Here the abusive bad guy is not also a religious Bible thumper.  Instead, the sympathetic character carries a Bible and believes in it.  This was rarely the case in Hollywood films just a few years ago.  Also, alcohol is not portrayed in a favorable light as it is linked to the abusive man.

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    Robert Duvall plays Karl's natural father, Mr. Childers.  Karl visits him, hoping to reconcile their relationship. The father ignores his son.  Childers had also secretly murdered his new born baby son (Karl's bother) years ago.  Watching this film causes one to wonder what real insanity is.  It's Childers and Doyle who are insane!  Both are abusive, cruel, heavy drinkers and they both reject Karl believing that he is insane. 
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     There are so many spiritual overtones in this film.  Karl meditates, goes to the high places and wants to be baptized.  He wants atonement.  A Pentecostal type of evangelical preacher baptizes him.   Again, Hollywood is respectful. This shift in attitude is amazing.  It the past, only Roman Catholics were portrayed seriously in film, never Evangelical Christians.  Evangelicals have been portrayed as hypocrites, money lovers and mentally unstable.  This welcomed shift can also be seen in The Devil's Advocate, Contact, and The Apostle.
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     I recommend this film highly.  The film's focus on Karl's spiritual journey is complex and very compelling. 
RELATED HUMOR
The abusive boyfriend Doyle had no belief in God and was illogical. To his character I dedicate this little example of nonsense.

WHY FIRE TRUCKS ARE RED

Fire trucks have four wheels
and eight fire fighters;
four plus eight equals twelve.
There are twelve inches in a foot.
A foot is a ruler. Queen Elizabeth is a ruler,
and Queen Elizabeth is one of the largest ships on the seven seas.
Seas have fish.
Fish have fins.
The Finns fought the Russians
when the Russians were red.
Fire trucks are always rushin'.
Therefore fire trucks are usually red!

If you think this is wild, you ought to hear some people trying to explain why they give no place to God in their life.

ON HUMILITY
KARL WAS A HUMBLE PERSON.
CONSIDER THESE THOUGHTS

A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.
Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899)

After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Always take the lowest place, and the highest will be given to you, for high structures require a solid foundation. The greatest, in the judgment of God, are the least in their own opinion; the more worthy they are, the more humility will be seen in them.
Thomas À Kempis (C. 1380-1471)

Because Christ Jesus came to the world clothed in humility, he will always be found among those who are clothed with humility. He will be found among the humble people.
A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

Being humble involves the willingness to be reckoned a failure in everyone's sight but God's.
Roy M. Pearson (1914- )

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being humble. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

He who knows himself best esteems himself least.
Henry George Bohn (1796-1884)

RELATED NEWS ARTICLES

UNMARRIED COUPLES GROWING
July 27,1998. More than 4 million unmarried couples live together in the United States and the ratio of married to unmarried couples has decreased since 1970, the U.S. Census Bureau said. Marital Status and Living Arrangements, a report compiled from the bureau's 1997 statistics, shows that there are eight couples living together for every 100 married couples. In 1970, that ratio was 100 to 1. About 36% of the unmarried couples live with children under 15 years old, the report said.

CHILDREN IN STEPFAMILIES
August 18, 1998. About 20% of children raised in stepfamilies have serious problems during adolescence, double the rate of problems of children in nuclear families, a psychologist says. Seemingly happy stepfamilies formed when children are 5 to 7 years old can "boomerang" as children reach adolescence, James Bray of Baylor College of Medicine told the American Psychological Association, meeting in San Francisco. His seven-year study found that children raised in "neotraditional" stepfamilies -- those in which the couple manage the household as partners -- fared best, USA Today reported. Children raised in stepfamilies in which the
mother wants full control of the children and the father doesn't want to participate fared less well. Children raised in stepfamilies in which both parents expected instant love between stepfather and children fared the poorest.

MARRIAGE GOOD FOR MEN AND WOMEN
August 4, 1998. Health, happiness, and money are common benefits of marriage, a University of Chicago researcher found. Findings by Linda Waite, a professor of sociology, contradicted conventional wisdom that marriage is bad for women but good for men. Marriage brings benefits to both women and men by lengthening life, boosting physical and emotional health, and raising income over that enjoyed by people who are single, divorced, or living together, Waite said. She presented her findings last month at the second annual Smart Marriages Conference in Washington.
...The idea that marriage damages women's emotional well-being derives from the 1972 publication of The Future of Marriage (Yale) by sociologist Jessie Bernard, The New York Times reported. She reported that married men are better off than single men on four measures of psychological distress, but that married women score higher on these negative traits than single women. Bernard's findings were never replicated and were disputed, but entered the culture at large and helped spread the idea that "marriage is an oppressive institution for women," said William Doherty, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

CHURCHGOING COUPLES HAPPIER
September 18, 1998. Canadians who attend church regularly are happier and more likely to have a lasting marriage, a survey found. Churchgoers suffer less stress and are less likely to consider lack of love and respect as grounds for divorce, Statistics Canada said Sept. 15, Reuters news service reported. A 1995 survey showed that Canadians who attended religious services every week had a 50% better chance of a happy marriage.

BULLETIN BOARD:

BEST IN A DECADE
Subject: Awesome
Date: Sun, 28 May 2000
From: Steve

"Sling Blade" is without a doubt the best movie I have seen in decades, riveting from sadness to joy, and to think that Billy Bob about did it all singlehandedly! Keep up the good work, Billy Bob! Also, Dwight Yoakum was so convincing as a mean S.O.B., though we know he is really kind hearted. Awesome movie, folks! Thanks for letting me say so.

TOO MUCH VIOLENCE IN SLING BLADE
August 27,1999.
This movie seems to suggest that the appropriate response to violence is violence. The brutal murder of even the most vile person is a defeat for Christian faith which insists that it is in refusing to resort to violence in even the most noble cause that the power of the cross is affirmed.

IS SLING BLADE A GUY THING?
July 31, 1999.
Okay, so it's none of my business...just another web-surfing atheist, but this persistent fawning over "Sling Blade" is very curious to me. Maybe it's a guy thing?....As a woman I know I was totally creeped out by those opening scenes, when some rapist starts discussing his MO for the benefit of apprentice punks out there. Then it was downhill, just wondering -- okay the guy diced his mother, what does he do for an encore? (Oddly the father gets off with a mere talking to - though maybe being flayed for 2 hours by some mumbling, gulping Marjoe in long pants is punishment enough?). Seriously, though: are we supposed to learn to listen to our inner psychopath here? -- "Baptism=license to kill?" (Maybe the crusaders thought so). "Morons know best"? I guess I prefer soul-searching done by people who show some signs of having one, i.e. "Quiz Show", "Love and Death," -- or for more knuckle-dragging lunatics there's John Huston's fascinating, "Wise Blood." On the bright side I was pleased to see a plug here for "Night of the Hunter," which is an authentic nightmare, too often overlooked.
P.S. Yes you are welcome to publish any of these comments. My web handle is "caitlin".

GREAT FILM
David, Sling Blade was a great film. I loved it. I wish Hollywood would make more like this one. -John

HATED IT
I hate films like Sling Blade. What's to like about it? -Ruzz

GREAT JOB
I was glad Billy Bob received an Academy Award for this picture. What a great job he did.

THE GOSPEL SONG SUNG DURING KARL'S BAPTISM:
SOFTLY AND TENDERLY.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He's waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Refrain: Come home, come home,
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?
Refrain

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.
Refrain

O for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.
Refrain

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