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The judicial system is supposed to protect them. But when a youthful prank in New York's Hell's Kitchen spins out of control, the punishment doesn't fit the crime. Sentenced to the Wilkinson School for Boys, four pals are mistreated at will by a cadre of sadistic guards. Now, 15 years later, they have an unexpected opportunity to use that system - for revenge.Friendship. Loyalty. Retribution. The powerful themes and startling events of the controversial bestseller come to the screen in the electrifying thriller Sleepers, written for the screen and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Disclosure). Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Bruno Kirby, Jason Patric and Brad Pitt headline the ensemble of the compelling movie that reminds us what superb acting is all about (Pat Collins, WWOR-TV). From its telltale opening lines to its stunning courtroom climax, Sleepers is spellbinding entertainment. With a vengeance.
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Top Customer Reviews
We need to talk about the subject of sexual abuse among men more. There are over 20 million men in our country who are victims, and they live with a tremendous amount of shame. 1 in 6 men will have been sexually abused by the age of 17 and one in 5 men will have been abused by the age of 18. But like the kids in the film sum it up, which is the one of the tragic attitudes: keep it to yourself... never tell anyone. And its that silence that eventually eats the older versions of the characters alive.
We need more movies about this subject. It's a harrowing story, and Kevin Bacon is astonishing as the abuser. Mr. Bacon is extremely underestimated as an actor. He's definitely not the "guy from Footloose" in this film. He's the jailer from Hell.
(USA - 1996)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Theatrical soundtracks: Dolby Digital / DTS / SDDS
By virtue of its all-star cast, handsome production values and solemn subject matter, Barry Levinson's SLEEPERS was clearly intended as a Major Motion Picture from the outset. Based on the harrowing true-life bestseller by journalist Lorenzo Carcaterra - first published in 1995 - book and film describe the appalling fate of four Hell's Kitchen kids (played as children by Joe Perrino, Brad Renfro, Geoffrey Wigdor and Jonathan Tucker) who, in 1967, were sentenced to confinement in the 'Wilkinson Home for Boys' following a near-fatal accident involving a hot dog vending machine which they had stolen as a prank. Inside the reformatory, all four boys are sexually and emotionally abused by a group of sadistic guards led by the sinister Nokes (Kevin Bacon at his slimiest). More than a decade later, traumatized by their experiences, two of the now grown-up boys (Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup) corner Nokes unexpectedly in a local diner and murder him in cold blood. The other members of the group - one a prosecuting attorney (Brad Pitt), the other an aspiring writer and journalist (Jason Patric) - formulate a daring plan to have their friends acquitted, expiose the reformatory's dark secrets, and take revenge on their abusers...
Such an extraordinary tale was always going to be controversial, and so it proved. Upon release, book and film drew immediate fire from critics who accused author and filmmakers of embellishment and exaggeration, since no records could be found to prove that the trial depicted in the film ever took place within the Manhattan district, or that the Wilkinson Home for Boys ever existed - even though Carcaterra's book (and Levinson's script) makes it clear that most of the names, dates and locations have been changed or fictionalized to protect those involved, and that the records of all children held in institutions like Wilkinson are routinely deleted after seven years. Further scandal ensued when the movie ignited protests from those who believed the story drew unfortunate parallels between pedophilia and homosexuality, thereby reinforcing the worst kind of homophobic stereotype. The point is certainly valid, given Hollywood's shameful mistreatment of gay themes and characters over the years, but SLEEPERS doesn't seek to draw any kind of parallels, unconsciously or otherwise, merely to recreate events described in Carcaterra's book. Besides, monsters are monsters, whoever their victims may be.
As a movie, SLEEPERS is competent, briskly paced, and beautifully acted by a dream cast of old pro's (including Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in key roles) and a new generation of rising stars. It's an ensemble piece, and the lack of grandstanding - in favor of narrative momentum - is admirable. But while the film is consistently intelligent and engaging, it's drawbacks are significant: The kids are terrific, especially Perrino, but the adults are burdened by the gravity of the subject matter, and Patric's sombre narration seems a little too laidback at times, lacking warmth or even genuine emotion, while John Williams' rambling score clashes resolutely with the film's epic visual sweep. Also, for obvious reasons, the moviemakers were unable to depict the kind of sexual atrocities outlined in the original book, with unfortunate consequences: Here, Nokes' murder seems more like the result of a petulant outburst by a couple of thugs, rather than the inevitable outcome of horrendous physical abuse. And during the subsequent trial, it defies belief that the prosecution's key witness - a former guard at Wilkinson - would incriminate himself so readily on the stand, as depicted here. That said, however, the movie is still a worthwhile entry, but the book is better.
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