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Sling Blade Blu-ray Review

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  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), German DTS 5.1 (1.5Mbps), Spanish Dolby 2.0 (192Kbps)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Miramax
  • Release Date: August 4, 2009
  • List Price: $34.99
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Sling Blade - Widescreen

Overall
rating4
The Film
rating4-5
Video Quality
rating4
Audio Quality
rating4
Supplemental Materials
rating3-5

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

More Screen Captures (14 Total)

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG and thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

rating4-5

In 1996, Billy Bob Thornton took the cinematic world by surprise, writing, directing, and starring in this quiet character study of a mentally challenged man released from a psychiatric institution struggling to fit into society.  At the age of eleven, Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) witnessed his mother and a young man having sex. The site of it caused him to kill the two of them with a farm tool called a sling blade. The authorities put the developmentally slow boy in an institution rather than sending him to prison. Some forty-odd years later, Karl has to be released back into general population and is faced with assimilating into a society he has been separated from for much of his life.

Finding comfort in the friendship of a young boy, Frank (Lucas Black), and his single mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), Karl finally begins to find the ease and love he didn’t have in his own life as a boy. All is not well, however, as Karl is once again confronted with violence from Linda’s drunken, abusive boyfriend Doyle (Dwight Yoakam).

Billy Bob Thornton moves the film’s narrative forward in a slow burning progression toward an almost inevitable conclusion through a brilliant character portrayal. He doesn’t just become Karl emotionally, but physically as well, turning himself into a completely different, unrecognizable person.  Wearing a triple crown as writer, director, and actor, Thornton crafts a riveting story that draws viewers in from its very opening moments. He deals with the issues of mental illness and domestic violence through the exploration of the ordinary lives of the characters involved.

At times the film’s pace slows to too much of a crawl and there are moments that could have been edited out, such as one where Karl’s date, another mentally-challenged woman from a family dinner the night before comes into his place of employment to give Karl  flowers. It doesn’t fit into the overall story; it feels too saccharine and out of place. The ending can also be seen as predictable, but as a character study, Sling Blade is still masterfully crafted and deserves its place as one of the classics of modern cinema.

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At times the film’s pace slows to too much of a crawl and there are moments that could have been edited out, such as one where Karl’s date, another mentally-challenged woman, from a family dinner the night before comes into his place of employment of give him flowers. It doesn’t fit into the overall story; it feels too saccharine and out place. The ending can also be seen as predictable, but as a character study, Sling Blade is still masterfully crafted and deserves its place as one of the classics of modern cinema

Video Quality

rating4

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Sling Blade is not the sort of film that’s ever going to look spectacular. Its 1.85:1 AVC/MPEG-4 encoding often looks pale and washed out with soft detail, but this is a consequence of the filming not the transfer. The transfer is actually quite strong for a film that is now thirteen years old. The source looks clean with very little dirt and scratches apparent. Black levels are more greyish than deep, obsidian black, but shadow detail is strong. Compression artifacts are nonexistent, but occasionally contrast clips a bit. Overall, however, Sling Blade has never looked better than it does in this Blu-ray release from Miramax.

Audio Quality

rating4

BDDefinitionslingblade-k1080

Sling Blade’s English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) mix is clean and dynamic. The dialogue-driven film’s sound resides mainly in the front three channels with very little activity in the surrounds. There are some occasional moments where the surround channels come alive with noticeable atmospheric effects, but mostly they are relatively quiet. The liveliest moments in the mix are when Daniel Lanois’ musical score is brought to the fore, again, across the front three channels. Although it may not be the most aggressive of mixes, it is well suited to the material and it doesn’t display any problems such as clipping.

There are also German DTS 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 dubbed versions available.

Supplemental Materials

rating3-5

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This Blu-ray release of Sling Blade comes with all the same standard definition bonus features ported over from the previous DVD releases, so there are no high-def features specific to this release.

The supplements available on this release are:

  • Audio Commentary — This audio commentary with Billy Bob Thornton offers a lot of detail into Thornton’s process on Sling Blade, but much of the information here can be gleaned from the many other bonus features provided on the disc as well.
  • Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood (1.33:1; 480i/60) — This profile of Billy Bob Thornton provides a detailed look at the writer/actor/director’s life and career.
  • Bravo Profiles Billy Bob Thornton (1.33:1; 480i/60) — Another profile of Billy Bob Thornton from the cable television network Bravo.
  • A Roundtable Discussion with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Mickey Jones, and Producer David Bushell (1.33:1; 480i/60) — In this roundtable discussion, the friends, actors, musicians and filmmakers discuss playing in garage bands and growing up in the south, among other things.
  • A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall (1.33:1; 480i/60) — Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall discuss how they met and how Duvall came to play the character of Karl’s father in Sling Blade.
  • A Conversation with Robert Duvall (1.33:1; 480i/60)
  • A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois (1.33:1; 480i/60)
  • The Return of Karl (1.33:1; 480i/60) — Billy Bob Thornton rehearsing on set I character as Karl Childers.
  • On the Set (1.33:1; 480i/60):
    • Billy Bob at Work
    • Doyle’s Band: The Johnsons
    • Doyle Gets Pummeled
  • “Doyle’s Dead” with Introduction by Billy Bob Thornton (1.33:1; 480i/60)
  • Sneak Peeks (HD):
    • Confessions of a Shopaholic
    • Lost
    • Extract
    • Adventureland
    • Miramax Films
    • On Blu-ray Disc

The Definitive Word

Overall:

rating4

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Sling Blade is an Oscar winning classic of modern cinema that arrives on Blu-ray with a strong transfer and a bounty of extras making it well worth the price of admission. If you haven’t yet seen this film, now is a great time to do it! Highly recommended.

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