In the 1996 film, Sling Blade, a criminally insane man, Karl (played by Billy Bob Thorton) is released from a mental institution and sent into the world to fend for himself. He finds himself back in his small hometown filled with stereotypes and small-minded people. The film does an amazing job at analyzing his relationships, both new and old. Each of his encounters strengthens the storyline, and the themes and stereotypes parallel the unfolding plot. .
The story begins at the mental institution with an interview Karl has with college students. It is here that the audience is informed that Karl was placed in the mental institution for killing his mother and his mother's lover out of what he thought was protection for his mother. It becomes obvious that Karl would kill again in order to protect someone he loves. The proceeding scenes show Karl's release from the institution and his settlement in the town. It is then that Karl meets Frank, a young boy who has seen more sadness than his age should have allowed. They meet at a Laundromat and Karl helps Frank carry his laundry home. Frank instantly befriends and accepts Karl. The storyline unfolds as their relationship grows. Frank then introduces Karl to his mother (Linda), and Linda invites Karl to live in their garage. It is at this point that Karl truly becomes a member of the family, and the plot thickens.
There are many important characters in this film that help progress the story along, the most important being Karl. As stated earlier, Karl is a mentally ill man who killed his mother and his mother's lover when he was an adolescent. Even though the audience is presented with this knowledge in the beginning, there is almost an automatic understanding that Karl is truly a kind man and would only hurt something or someone who he felt was hurting his loved one's. The interview in the beginning reveals that Karl had a terrible childhood, and was treated like a dog instead of a child simply because he was slightly retarded.