[Screen It]


(1996) (Billy Bob Thorton, Lucas Black) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate *None Heavy Mild Moderate
Mild None Moderate Minor Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Heavy Mild Moderate

Drama: A mental patient returns to his hometown where years earlier, at the age of twelve, he killed his mother and her lover.
Karl Childers (BILLY BOB THORNTON), a mental patient committed at the age of twelve for murdering his mother and her lover, is released from institution where he's grown up. With no where else to go and not knowing what to do, he returns to his hometown. There he meets Frank Wheatley (LUCAS BLACK), a young boy who instantly befriends him. At first this doesn't sit well with Frank's mother, Linda (NATALIE CANDERDAY) or her boss and friend Vaughan Cunningham (JOHN RITTER). Soon, however, they see Karl as a gentle simpleton and they accept him into their extended "family." His violent side begins to flare up, though, when he sees how Linda's boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves (DWIGHT YOAKAM), abuses her and Frank. As Doyle's abuse continues, it's all Karl can do to keep from defending his new friends the only way he knows how.
Probably not. Older teens might be somewhat intrigued by it, but younger kids will (and should) stay away.
For strong language, including descriptions of violent and sexual behavior.
  • BILLY BOB THORNTON plays a mentally retarded man who killed his mother and lover when he was twelve. He's a simple man who sees good in a world that often confuses him.
  • LUCAS BLACK plays a young boy who instantly takes to Karl and tries to defend his mother from her abusive boyfriend.
  • NATALIE CANDERDAY plays a single mom trying to make ends meet. Her flaw is that she doesn't break off her relationship with her abusive boyfriend.
  • DWIGHT YOAKAM plays the abusive, alcoholic boyfriend who is mean to nearly everyone.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    This is a very powerful and disturbing film by actor and first-time director Billy Bob Thorton. His performance as the powder keg simpleton is quite amazing and will probably get him an Oscar nomination this year. Karl may not be the brightest character on Earth and at times the world simply befuddles him, but he sees hope in it and Thorton's bravo take on him creates the most memorable character of this year. The supporting cast is tremendous, with Dwight Yoakam delivering a chilling performance as the abusive boyfriend. The movie may seem depressing and grim (which it is at times), but it's also funny and moving. Thorton's use of Karl telling stories (instead of us seeing them in flashback), is masterfully effective and, like a novel, allows our imaginations to run wild. While the violence that occurs both on and off screen may be disturbing to many viewers, it only adds more depth to this amazing movie that we rate as an 8 out of 10.
    This is definitely not a film for younger kids, not only due to the acts that are heard and seen, but also because of the underlying theme. There's an abusive and violent boyfriend who's often drunk. Some sexual talk is heard, but nothing is seen on screen. Profanity includes 20+ "f" words and the violence that occurs is more in the imagination than on screen, but often times that makes it seem that much more vivid. We suggest, as always, that you read the category listings if you or your children wish to see this film.

  • Doyle is often seen drinking and is occasionally drunk. When he is, he's mean and abusive toward Linda, Frank and Karl.
  • Doyle and his buddies are drunk from beer and hard liquor.
  • Wine is consumed with dinner at Vaughn's house.
  • None that's seen, but plenty that's imagined in stories told and in what happens just off camera. See "Violence" for details.
  • Doyle has plenty of both as he's physically and verbally abusive to everyone. He refers to Karl as "retard," makes fun of Vaughan because he's gay, and tells Frank that he's the problem in the family and tells him, "You'll be sorry your father ever squirted you out."
  • Doyle and his buddies play rock n' roll music outside late at night. A disturbed neighbor yells at them to stop and Doyle yells back at him with profanities.
  • It's implied that Karl was never treated well, even as a child. He lived in the barn and dug a hole for himself in the dirt where he slept at night. And he was given his prematurely born baby brother to "throw away in the trash" when he was only six-years-old.
  • Several stories are told by Karl (about killing his mother and of burying a premature baby) that many will find tense.
  • Karl shows up in Doyle and Linda's bedroom holding a hammer and for a moment we don't know what's going to happen (nothing does).
  • Karl sharpens a lawn mower blade and then goes to find Doyle and we know what's going to happen next.
  • Some viewers may find Karl's gaze (grimaced mouth, somewhat crazed looking eyes) and his strange behavior as unsettling.
  • Sling Blade (Medium sized pole with a curved blade used to cut weeds): Used by Karl to kill his mother and lover who were having sex (not seen, but the story is told by Karl).
  • Frank tells Karl that his father commited suicide by shooting himself.
  • Lawn mower blade: Used to kill Doyle.
  • Frank uses the words "lips, peckers, and tits" as he describes the ingredients of canned meat.
  • Phrases: "Pissing," "Kiss my ass," and "Bastard."
  • None.
  • The suspenseful "music" isn't like that of your garden variety film and includes one scene where just a continuous heartbeat sound is heard. Overall, we'd rate what's used as moderate.
  • The word "damn" is heard in a song.
  • 23 "f" words (2 with the prefix "mother"), 12 "s" words, 13 "ass" words, 10 damns, 8 S.O.B.'s, 8 hells, 6 terms referring to male genitals (3 "pr*cks," 2 "p*ckers," and 1"c*cksucker"), 2 slang terms for female genitals (the "p" word), several slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), and 11 uses of "God damn" and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • Another patient tells Karl that he likes "bush" (pubic hair) and that he likes women with hair on their arms because it usually means they have a "bigger bush." He then tells a story about picking up a prostitute in a leather skirt who asked him what he wanted. When he told the hooker he wanted to "see some bush," he says the hooker pulled up the skirt to reveal a "crooked, uncircumsized penis" (ie. a transvestite).
  • Karl tells his "story" to a young female reporter. As a 12-year-old he came upon his mother lying naked on the living room floor having sex with another man. Angered from this, he killed both of them.
  • A man tells a joke about two men "pissing" off a bridge where one states that the water is cold and the other states that "it's deep too." (A penis size joke) Karl later repeats this to Linda.
  • Vaughan is gay and Frank tells Karl that Vaughan is "kinda funny...not funny ha- ha...funny queer. Later Vaughan tries to explain to Karl that he's gay and states that "I like men....sexually."
  • When Linda "talks back" to Doyle, he says that he likes her talking that way and that it makes him "horny."
  • Doyle tells Vaughan that he heard that he and his lover were caught "doing it" in the funeral home where his lover works.
  • Doyle threatens Frank and tells him, "You'll be sorry your father ever squirted you out."
  • A mental hospital director smokes a pipe.
  • An employee of Vaughan's store smokes.
  • There are many scenes with Doyle being physically and mentally abusive to Linda and Frank.
  • Karl goes to see his father who wants nothing to do with him.
  • Mental retardation.
  • Being criminally insane, committing a crime, and then being released because of being "all better."
  • Another patient continually talks to Karl and hints at his crimes. It is inferred by what he says that he's an abductor of women and that he used "strong nylon cord" to get a pretty girl away from her boyfriend.
  • Karl tells his "story" to a young female reporter. As a 12-year-old he came upon his mother lying naked on the living room floor having sex with another man. Angered from this, he took a "sling blade" and whacked the man twice, nearly cutting his head off. Realizing that his mother was not being attacked, but instead was enjoying what she had been doing, he killed her as well.
  • Doyle is drunk and yells at everyone to leave the house. He throws his beer bottle through a window, breaking both. He slams a man in a wheelchair into a door and threatens to kill others (including Linda and Vaughan) After nearly everyone has left, Linda tells him to leave and pushes him. He knocks her down and Frank then attacks him and throws many objects at him, pummeling him to the floor.
  • Frank tells Karl that his father committed suicide by shooting himself and asks Karl if he ever thought of doing that. Karl responds that he "studied that" but decided against it.
  • Karl tells the story of his baby brother who was born prematurely. His father told him to throw it (wrapped in a bloody towel) away. But after feeling some movement, Karl didn't think it was right to throw it into the trash, so he took an old shoe box and buried it (still alive) out in the yard. He then says that he was only six or so when that happened.
  • Doyle pushes Frank and then tries to hit him, but Karl grabs his arm, stopping him.
  • Karl kills Doyle with a sharpened lawn mower blade. He strikes him twice, and while none of it's seen, it seems quite graphic. Karl then calls the police on the phone and tells them that he nearly split Doyle's head in two.

  • Reviewed December 5, 1996

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