In Sixties New York, four young boys, Lorenzo, Michael, John and Tommy, grow up in Hell's Kitchen, befriended by both the local priest and the gang boss. However, when a prank has near-fatal consequences the boys are sent to reform school, where they are sexually abused and beaten by a quartet of prison guards, an experience that marks the rest of their lives. Barry Levinson directs an all-star cast including Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon and Jason Patrick.
The first thing you need to know about Sleepers
is that it's based on a novel
by Lorenzo Carcaterra that was allegedly based on a true story. The movie repeats this bogus claim, which was attacked and determined by a wide majority to be misleading. Knowing this, Sleepers
becomes problematic because it's too neat, too clean, too manipulative in terms of legal justice and dramatic impact to be truly convincing. And yet, with its stellar cast directed by Barry Levinson, it succeeds as gripping entertainment, and its tale of complex morality--despite a dubious emphasis on homophobic revenge--is sufficiently provocative. It's about four boys in New York's Hell's Kitchen district who are sent to reform school, where they must endure routine sexual assaults by the sadistic guards. Years after their release, the opportunity for revenge proves irresistible for two of the young men, who must then rely on the other pair of friends (Brad Pitt, Jason Patric), a loyal priest (Robert De Niro), and a shabby lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) to defend them in court. Despite the compelling ambiguities of the story, there's never any doubt about how we're supposed to feel, and the screenplay glosses over the story's most difficult moral dilemmas. At its best, Sleepers
grabs your attention and pulls you into its intense story of friendship and the price of loyalty under extreme conditions. The movie's New York settings are vividly authentic, and Minnie Driver makes a strong impression as a long-time friend of the loyal group of guys. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com