Sling Blade | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Billy Bob Thornton--who collaborated on the scripts of One False Move and A Family Thing and has recently been appearing in many pictures (One False Move, Dead Man)--wrote, directed, and stars in this impressive first feature, a Faulknerian parable about a semiretarded misfit from a small southern town emerging 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. The secondary cast includes M. Emmet Walsh and Robert Duvall. Pipers Alley.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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