A 1996 drama directed, written and starring Billy Bob Thornton, based on a short film called "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade," in which he also starred.The story's about a mentally challenged man named Karl Childers who, around the age of 12, butchered his mother and her lover with the titular sling blade, because he had always learned from his parents that having sex was wrong (a detail shown in the script and seen in the short film). He was put up in a state mental hospital in Arkansas; our observation of Karl begins 25 years later, when he's about to be released.
Provides Examples Of:
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Karl cleaves Doyle's skull "damn near in two" with just two chops of the lawnmower blade he spent all night sharpening.
All Love Is Unrequited: Poor Frank; Karen Cross (only shown in the extended version) just shot him right down. Gender-flipped and somewhat averted with Karl and his would-be girlfriend, Melinda: Karl: "Flowers is purty." Of course it doesn't go anywhere because shortly afterwards, the rest of the story happens...
Calling the Old Man Out: Subverted two ways, as first, because of Frank Childers' senility, he's regressed into a childlike state and unable to respond in a way befitting this trope; and second, Karl doesn't have a vehement bone in his body, at least by the standards of other people; he still summons a good deal of anger, also seen elsewhere, and we do see the rage he could have if he were not retarded, but it's not blatant.
Drop the Hammer: Karl sure does want to, right on Doyle's head, but he had horrible timing. He changed his pre-emptive strike into the BLAM mentioned in YMMV.
Everybody Knew Already: Vaughan wants his homosexuality kept quiet amongst his friends, but they tell him practically the whole town knows already.
Face Palm: When everyone's all together for dinner, Melinda related how she heard about how Vaughan and Albert are a couple; Albert seems a bit amused, but Vaughan's quite embarrassed; fortunately, Linda suggests that Karl and Melinda go out for a walk at that moment; Irony considering she admonished Vaughan for not being too pushy when he suggested that same thing.
Gayngst: Poor Vaughan is constantly angsting about all the dirty rumors and lies circulating about town of his behavior.
Hope Spot: Near the end of the movie: about three or four minutes are spent with no dialog, simply Karl walking around contemplating the situation: he knows if he goes through with it, he'll at the very least be put in jail, but standing at Doyle's house he decides it's in Frank and Linda's best interest. The extended version draws this out by about a minute, to very tense effect.
I Did What I Had to Do: Karl's final decision about Doyle. He gets his affairs in order with the people he cares about and spends a long time contemplating the choice, but in the end he feels it's the only way he can help them.
Idiot Hero: Deep down, Karl is a good man at heart, but has the intelligence of a brick and seems to recognize this about himself.
Idiot Savant: Despite his mental limitations, Karl has an unnatural talent for fixing lawnmowers and other machines that trained mechanics have given up on.
Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Very much averted. The film frequently shows how Karl not only lacks basic social skills but is almost incapable of caring for himself. He also never displays any Rain Man type abilities aside from being an excellent mechanic. Some characters, such as Vaughan, seem to view him as deep and wise, likely to lampshade this trope.
Jerk Ass: No doubt, Doyle Hargraves himself. His Crowning Moment of Jerkass mixed with (only one of) his personal Moral Event Horizons is when he brutally ejects his band from his house and threatens Linda and Frank.
Even during his Pet the Dog moment where he speaks calmly to his family and Karl, he fails to see that psychological damage is real: "I didn't hit you, did I, Karl? So no apology necessary, I guess." By the way, that's the scene where Doyle discusses moving in with Linda and Frankie for good.
Wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call Karl's father one, though his actions before the story are more severe than those of a standard Jerk Ass.
Charles Bushman from the beginning and end; this behavior is carried over and toned down a bit from the original short, in which he actively harassed other inmates besides Karl; his stories in both — well, see YMMV.
Karl, perhaps, by a combination of his mental slowness, his sheltered and backwards upbringing, and his incarceration.
Frank, his father, has some elements of this, probably from going senile; he mutters to himself and claims not to know Karl or what he's talking about, but this latter may be due to his being a Jerk Ass.
Moral Dissonance: Invoked for the audience, as it is for many films like this. Karl's killing of Doyle is indeed illegal and will get him sent to jail (or back to the state hospital as it turns out). For the safety and security of his new-found loved ones, it is not immoral, and indeed we cheer for Karl at this act.
Orbital Shot: Thornton thought that a half-circle version of this would be a pretty effect, and it's a good establishment for the beginning of the 5+ minute tension building to the climax.
Police Are Useless: (in the extended version) Because they're Doyle's friends and are a bit lax towards him regarding drinking and driving.
Rant Inducing Slight: Doyle sure is a mean drunk, and he likes things quiet when he's "hurtin'". When his band talks about the technicalities of being a band a bit TOO much...
Real Men Love Jesus: Karl carries a Bible with him everywhere he goes and wishes to be baptized later on in the film. By contrast, Jerk Ass Doyle is shown to be as hostile to Karl's beliefs as he is towards everything else.
Restrained Revenge: Karl tells his father he contemplated killing him, but decided that letting him live in his own misery until he dies alone is fair enough.
Seemingly Profound Fool: Karl is seen as wise by Vaughan and a few others, but he's really just simple (and single) minded. Also Subverted a few times when Karl shows surprising wisdom. Despite his own personal discomfort with homosexuals, he recognizes that Vaughan is the only decent man in Frank's life and implores him to be a father figure to him. This insight moves Vaughan to tears at the end.
Karl: That boy, Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in. You take care of that boy.
Doyle: What are you doing with that lawnmower blade?
Karl: I aim to kill you with it.
What the Hell, Hero?: Frankie's criticism of Karl for burying his barely-alive premature brother takes on this tone, despite Karl's being much too young (and mentally challenged to boot) to understand about caring for a child.
Wife-Basher Basher: How Karl responds to Doyle who is brutalizing Linda and her son Frank.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In a decidedly more metaphorical sense than the common usage, Karl. We do have a great deal of sympathy for him, for his naivete and his just seeming lost in the huge world (near the beginning, he even goes back to the asylum and requests to stay there, because he has no idea how to be a free man), but he still exerts a large amount of influence on those he meets. Linda, Frank and Vaughan are changed positively for their experience with him (they get a new appreciation for people who are a little different), while Doyle's life is cut short simply because he refuses to change, and Karl's protector instinct kicks in (for an example of this, see the CMOA above).