Sleepers (1996)

Title:  Sleepers

Year: 1996

Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller |

Runtime: 147 min

Director: Barry Levinson

Starring:  Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon

7.5/10

Four boys growing up in Hell’s Kitchen play a prank that leads to an old man getting hurt. Sentenced to no less than one year in the Wilkinson Center in upstate New York, the four friends are changed by the beating, humiliation, and sexual abuse by the guards sworn to protect them. Thirteen years later and a chance meeting leads to a chance for revenge against the Wilkinson Center and the guards.

SUBDUED TO THE EMOTIONAL BITS

WITH A BLEAK OVERALL STORY

Sleepers is a 2,5 hours runtime of film from 1996 with a cast of Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, and Dustin Hoffman to ravish the story of a group of teenagers seeking revenge in adult life after being incarcerated at a young age.

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After the Wilkinsons Home for boys-part of the film is over, we get to the adult part. The boys are all grown up and there’s far more drama when these four characters have reached. There’s a lot of reflection and reminiscing with the adult actors, there’s a completely different feeling and film. The part with the boys explains mostly, or even uses that to ratify the latter drama scenes. This is a film of over two and a half hours.   

 Robert DeNiro has a small part to play but takes on a crucial part in the story. Kevin Bacon plays an even more important role in breaking the young boy’s spirit through rape and violence.  Brad Pitt sticks out, he has similar mannerisms like when he starred in Seven and Legends of the Fall or his guest role starring in the sitcom Friends. Why they would cast a very famous, established actor is fascinating when the other of the quartet of men is.  Of the adult cast, with the courtroom drama, conspiracy, and trial, Jason Patric, as Shakes, is the only of the bunch that brings on a justified performance. He succeeds in bringing the same charismatic aura that his younger counterpart, Joe Perrino.  Of course, Dustin Hoffman as Snyder does a good job despite his small role.

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The editing is occasionally choppy as it moves between these time periods. The pace was decent at first with the boys who had good chemistry, but that doesn’t return in the second part. A similar failure is to a horror film like IT, one with children and adults, where the differences were too big to reconcile with the story.  The whole film is narrated, beginning to end. It’s told like it could be a true story but the author Lorenzo Carcaterra has debunked the conspiracies that the whole story would be fake. That this would be autobiographical but there’s no proof of that.

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This is a film with a heavy subject of child abuse, rape, and torture. The film does it in a good way, balancing it in the right direction. The violence isn’t shown much on screen more like off-screen and in dialogue. The ambiance is captured with the solitude that this could be a true story when it’s false. But instead of redeeming the subject, it becomes instead a story filled with revenge inspired by the Count of Monte Carlo.

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