Sling Blade Blu-Ray

| August 25, 2009

In the russet brown hues of this 1996 independent film written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, one finds warm distance and stark observation on the alienated and marginalized. The film tells of the Karl (Thornton), admitted to a state mental hospital since the age of twelve for the murder of his mother and a strange bedfellow, his trajectory to a strange, alien place called America in the 90s and the relationships that form after. Much has changed but the setting is still there. In his attempt to come to terms not so much with what he had done but what was to come and this new theater in which he finds himself, he befriends a young boy (Lucas Black), his mother and her gay friend/employer (Natalie Canerday, John Ritter) and his mother’s foul mouthed and sweaty burnt vertebrae of a boyfriend (Dwight Yokam). The film goes on and has gone on with the same strong tenacity and social wit that seems as relevant today as it was back then, and maybe without even trying. Perhaps the biggest challenge in this movie converted into a feature film from a short film also by Thornton, is exploring characters other than the antagonist. As richly and complex and well defined this character tends to be, others are very obtuse variables and it’s not hard to tell their role as supporting cast. No other character is explored as well as that of Karl (Thornton), but this isn’t exactly an ensemble piece. The story has a main character and its focus tends to be driven by his conflict and any other conflict is because of or directly affected and affecting him. The events that follow and the conclusion is pretty obvious to audiences thirteen years on but it is still a compelling and wonderful insight into what might be construed as not only a story about the south or mentally challenged reintegration but also society in general.
Blu-Ray discs have the distinct advantage of having a lot of special features or at least one would assume given the price. The picture is as good as it was, I suppose. I never saw the film in the nineties and had a less than great television set growing up but I suppose in the splendors of High Definition, it is pretty good. The special features include The Return of Karl which showcases Thornton in character as Karl. A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois concerns the work of Daniel Lanois and his music that helps give the movie interesting and unique compliments to the story and offers an insight on Lanois’ particular process of composing the score to Sling Blade from all aspects. A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall is a bit candid and more of a personal dialogue rather than a professional one. It offers no little information about how the movie came to be but it does expand on the relationship shared between the two actors, off screen. Mr. Thornton goes to Hollywood is an hour and some minutes long and tells of Thornton’s life and career and the road that eventually led him to making Sling Blade. It also features interviews from those closest to Thornton as well as clips and pictures from other movies he participated in. Bravo Profiles: Billy Bob Thornton is essentially the same as the aforementioned documentary except revised and shorter and a bit redundant given the others presence. A Roundtable Discussion with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Mickey Jones, and Producer David Bushell is a very extensive discussion about the filming of Sling Blade and it further expands on the actors themselves and other points such as music and looks at the film’s performance and it’s legacy. Billy Bob at Work showcases Thornton’s duality of his performance that didn’t stop short of in front of the camera. On the Set offers the same content as the other extras that concern themselves with the making of the film and gives yet more information. Doyles Band: The Johnsons is an on set performance and Doyle gets Pummeled is a scene from the movie viewed from a different angle and altogether different approach. ‘Doyle’s Dead’ with Introduction by Billy Bob Thornton is a deleted scene with commentary by Thornton
Sling Blade is definitely a movie for people who want to see it. It as specific as it is difficult and it marries the compassionate with the brutal. It is not an all-in-one-sitting sort of movie watching experience especially when the extras are involved but alas, a good film is a good film.

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