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Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1993): Brevity Is the Soul of Billy Bob Thornton

Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (George Hickenlooper, 1993)

[originally posted 28Mar2001]

Two shots of Thornton adorn the DVD cover.

One wonders how many times Steve McQuenn watched this while penning the central scene of Hunger.
photo credit: IMDB

Some Folks… is the short that inspired Billy Bob Thornton’s overblown 1996 feature-length Oscar winner. Hickenlooper’s seed is far less emotionally manipulative and has a much darker feel to it than Thornton’s continuation.

J. T. Walsh talks up Billy Bob Thornton in a still from the film.

Walsh and Thornton, both in the roles of their careers.
photo credit: history.sffs.org

Thornton plays a mentally retarded murderer, getting ready to be released from an asylum after twenty-five years of incarceration. Molly Ringwald is a reporter, sent to the asylum to interview him for the local paper before he leaves. While there’s a semblance of setup in the first half of the film (along with some wonderful scene-stealing monologue by J. T. Walsh as a fellow inmate), the real stuff is in the last half of the film, and it’s a ten-minute monologue from Thornton about his character’s motivation. Fine stuff from an actor who certainly deserves better than he’s gotten in Hollywood since; the only role he’s had that approaches the capabilities he shows here is in A Simple Plan, and even there he was taking a decided backseat to his co-stars.

Molly Ringwald interviews Billy Bob Thornton in a still from the film.

“So what you’re saying is you’ve been in here for forty-five years because you failed to shine a man’s shoes properly?”
photo credit: Listal

Hickenlooper keeps things dark and straightforward, not surprising given his background in documentary filmmaking. Excellent work (which makes one wonder what in the world he was thinking with his followup film, The Killing Box). Should be seen by anyone who liked Sling Blade, certainly. **** ½

 


Part 1 (the rest is linked in the sidebar).

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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