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Sunday, June 1, 2008

SLING BLADE (1996)

Who knew that turning ol’ Boo Radley, the spooky, mentally challenged neighborhood vigilante/protector from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, into a heroic lead would be so readily accepted. Writer/star/director Billy Bob Thornton pushes the same button so relentlessly here that neither the tale nor his perf finds a fresh moment in this reheated hash right out of D. W. Griffith’s BROKEN BLOSSOMS, now seasoned with a soupcon of preemptive vigilantism. Ah, Hollywood liberalism strikes again. And, just in case we miss the MOCKINGBIRD connection, Boo Radley himself (Robert Duvall) does a cameo as Thornton’s Pa, and the troubled boy (Lukas Black) is cast to look (a bit) & sound (a lot) like Philip Alford, the original Jem Finch. Thornton deserves credit for playing a lot of scenes in uncut master shots (even if his staging is slack) and for an excellent supporting line up. Especially James Hampton, who it's nice to see after many a year, and John Ritter, a truly great actor who deserved far more opportunities than his hit sit-coms afforded him.

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