Billy Bob Thornton’s long journey to Sling Blade had all the makings of a good country ballad. His house burned down, his brother died, and according to the 66-minute doc ”Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood,” when he was working as a waiter a little man with an Austrian accent told him to focus on writing because he was too darn ugly to be an actor. The man was director Billy Wilder, and while Thornton never abandoned his acting dream, it was his writing that made him a star. This new Collector’s Series edition of his Southern gothic tale — about Karl (Thornton), a mentally challenged man released from prison 25 years after killing his mother and her boyfriend — restores the writer-director’s original vision. Since he had relative freedom to make the film his way in the first place, the extra 13 minutes simply add subtle texture, like young Frank (Lucas Black) courting a pretty girl and Karl hesitating before committing his last crime. EXTRAS ”I like to see the so-called unnecessary exposition. It’s all about the characters. I’m more interested in their world than I am in creating a perfect scientific product,” says Thornton in new commentary that’s mixed with recycled narration from the 1997 laserdisc. The four ”Conversations” offer intriguing tidbits, like Thornton’s revelation that the studio suggested changing the title to The Reckoning. But any two-disc set without ”Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade,” the 25-minute short that evolved into the feature, is like ”french-fried potaters” without mustard.

Sling Blade
  • Movie
  • 135 minutes