Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade is a fascinating, superbly nuanced tale, alternately sweet and disturbing. Thornton's turn as writer, director, and star of the independently made feature established him as a true talent -- he received an Oscar for his screenplay -- but his isn't the only stellar work. The surprise casting of John Ritter as a gay storeowner is no stunt; he gives life and complexity to a character which, in a lesser film, would have been a mere caricature. The real revelation, however, is country & western singer Dwight Yoakam's fascinatingly loathsome domestic abuser Doyle. Yoakam and Thornton refuse to make things easy on us: Doyle possesses a cowardly ambivalence, summed up wonderfully in a scene in which he pathetically slinks away from his girlfriend's crusading son.
by Matthew Doberman review