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Sleepers
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Reviews & Ratings for
Sleepers More at IMDbPro »

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100 out of 120 people found the following review useful:

Really good and full of powerful performances - underrated if a bit flawed overall

Author: MovieAddict2014 from UK
6 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie made a fuss when it came out because there were claims that its author had lied about it being "based on a true story." As a result it become a sort of infamous title and people cared less about the film's content and more about its "accuracies."

Well, frankly I don't really care about whether or not the story is true because I know things similar to this _do_ happen - children are abused and using this as a backbone for a revenge film may seem a bit inappropriate but it is handled with care by director Barry Levinson and the highly talented ensemble cast treat it with caution.

Robert De Niro gives a convincing performance as the Catholic priest who is a father-figure to a bunch of disillusioned Brooklyn youth. After they accidentally injure a man during a rebellious incident they are sent away to a juvenile facility where they are sexually and physically abused by the evil warden (Kevin Bacon). Years later two of the boys (now grown men) take revenge on Bacon and kill him in a public area. They are sent to trial but not all is what it seems - representing the case is someone involved with the past and there are some other interesting twists along the way.

The abuse isn't really the subject of this movie - instead the "what if a trial could be rigged?" question is more prescient. (Think "Runaway Jury" meets "Deliverance.") The cast is fantastic - De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, Minnie Driver, Bacon, et al. It's a movie buff's dream come true! If only Al Pacino had popped up....

De Niro has been given a bad reputation lately as a "sell-out" - but he provides a really deep and multi-layered performance here. It's too bad people forget about this movie along with some others he made around the turn of the decade because a lot of them were very good. This is one of them.

Levinson ("Rain Man," "Diner") is sometimes a bit too heavy on schmaltz in his films and that's the reason many people (myself NOT included) disliked "Rain Man." However here - for the most part - he abandons this and presents the material with a good touch. It's atmospheric and dark - it feels a bit like De Niro's "A Bronx Tale" and "Diner" colliding together.

Overall this is a really good film that is not without its flaws but is still engaging and surprising and underrated - a must-see for any self-respecting film buff.

4.5/5

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90 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

Excellent

9/10
Author: booksmooviesnwhisky from NY
24 August 2003

I really liked this movie. Great acting, great direction, great plot!

As another reviewer pointed out, the movie indeed has 3 parts. before,at and after the correction center. All three parts are equaly gripping. Except that the part in the correction center is very dark and disturbing.

Brad Pitt shines in a small role he has. So does Jason Patrick. Hoffman has his ususal confused charisma. Rest of the supporting cast is excellent too. Especially the denizens of hell's kitchen. Kevin Bacon looks realy menacing. But the person who realy shows his caliber again is de niro. He has one of these rare "non-swearing" roles of his. There is a scene where Jason Patric tells the story of the abuses they faced, and the camera focusses on Robert De Niro's face. Only thing changes is his eyes, from sharp and focussed at the first, you see them widening and then you see some trace of tears. Great! This scence reminds me of Omar Shariff standing on a balcony while soldiers start mayhem on the streets, in Dr. Zhivago.

A good care has been taken in getting child stars and adult stars look pretty similar.

Only thing li'll bit out of the place is constant referance to Count of montecristo. The revenge in the book is "sweet lasting revenge" where in this movie its straight shot. But heck! this is real life!

the last night the friends spend together is also really touching.

my rating 9/10.

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98 out of 139 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding

8/10
Author: blueice
18 January 2000

This movie is one of the best movies made in a long time. Previous comments seem to focus more on whether or not the story is true and seem to forget the phenomenal story. Who cares if the story is true or not? If it is, it only makes the movie that much more disturbing and heart-breaking. What is the big deal if it is or isn't true? It is still an amazing movie with a great story. Most so-called "classics" are not based on true stories, so what makes this movie any different? OK, now that I have said my peace about my feelings about the authenticity of the story, I can now comment on the actual movie. I can not say enough positive things about the movie. The actors are perfectly casted. I think every single one of them do an outstanding job in their portrayal. The story is heart-wrenching and it does an excellent job of getting its point across without showing or saying too much. This movie deserves more than it got.

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66 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

The Sleeper of 1996

Author: marquis de cinema from Boston, MA
27 November 2000

Sleeper(1996) is a deeply emotional and brilliant film that was overlooked in 1996. It deals with the past and how events from the past can be instrumential in shaping the present. The movie was very controversial due to the subject matter. I believe that one reason that Sleepers(1996) didn't get the praise it deserved is the film deals with things that were already present in Mean Streets(1973) and Once Upon a Time in America(1984). The first half of the feature reminds me a lot of the flash back sequences from Once Upon a Time in America(1984). Brad Pitt gives what I see as the best performance of his life. What I also like about Sleepers(1996) is that it puts together two of the best actors of their genreation in Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.

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68 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Last third makes it worthwhile

7/10
Author: Sean Gallagher (seankgallagher@yahoo.com) from Brooklyn, NY
22 September 1999

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like the controversial book, the movie SLEEPERS is divided into three parts; before reform school, during, and after. But whereas the parts in the book all worked together into a satisfying(albeit disturbing) whole, the movie only really catches fire in the last third, which is enough to recommend it. Before I get to why, regarding on whether it really happened; that's irrelevant. It could have happened.

Part one of the book, like the movie, establishes our protagonists and their personalities, as well as draw out the supporting characters. We get to know and like them, and therefore the climax to the first part is quite disturbing. The movie, alas, relies too much on voice-over narration. A former friend once called movies like these "narration from hell" movies, and this one certainly qualifies. It tells us, rather than shows us, about the main characters. The four young actors are certainly appealing enough, but they're left with nothing to work with. Perhaps because it's so poorly written, Jason Patric, the one who narrates it, seems to do his job badly a la Harrison Ford in BLADE RUNNER. Or maybe he's just not good at it(he is a good actor). Only the supporting characters, like De Niro as the priest and the great Italian actor Vittorio Gassman as King Benny, come through.

Part II takes place at the reform school/prison, and it's the weakest part of the book, simply because it's all been done before, although this one is more sadistic than usual. What helps the movie, besides keeping DeNiro around, is the performances. Kevin Bacon is chilling as the head guard, and Terry Kinney, who usually plays weak-willed men, is surprisingly effective here as well.

Part III is the most controversial part of the book and movie, since it alleges a prosecutor threw a case, and a priest lied to help two murderers get off. Also, like A TIME TO KILL, it raises the question of whether revenge killing is justified. Unlike A TIME TO KILL, however, this movie and book don't take the easy way out, but look at both sides. You may not agree with what the priest character does, but you can't say it was easy for him, and like the book, the movie implies a little shame for having to ask him in the first place. And DeNiro's performance here is excellent; the look on his face when he hears for the first time what the boys went through in prison says a lot. The third part is where the movie finally comes alive, even though that annoying narration is still there, because the actors have something to work with, and they work with it. In addition to DeNiro and Gassman, I'm thinking in particular of Minnie Driver, Brad Pitt, and Dustin Hoffman. Driver and Pitt have to suggest earlier involvement, and they do in their powerful scene together in the subway when she reveals she now knows what went on at the prison(her reaction when she finds out is also powerful). As for Hoffman, one reason I am tired of courtroom movies and shows is the assertion that yelling is the only way lawyers examine people, and Hoffman resists the urge to overact. Watch him particularly when he destroys Kinney's character on the stand, with a low but probing voice that nicely plays against his questioning, rather than blow it up. And so, when the four main characters(along with Driver) come together for the last time, you really feel the moment, more than you'd suspect from the start. It's not a perfect movie, but stick with it and it is worthwhile.

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51 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

Hell's Kitchen's legacy

10/10
Author: Andreas Niedermayer (leeds1@gmx.at) from Klagenfurt, Austria
4 November 2005

A classic. The story is complex and very sophisticated. The cast is sheer brilliant and hardly to surpass. Here we get first-class entertainment in combination with suspense and a variety of themes that are fairly well known to anyone, just as revenge, justice, murder, abuse, atonement etc. The kids do a fine job, really. They add tremendous depth to the deeds and to the behave of the grown ups. Their genuine and sure-handed performances grant the movie a considerable amount of emotional recognition and chain anyone who soaks up and identifies with the storyline and the characters. The very end closes the circle and makes us aware of how quickly our lives can fall apart. Thrilling and suspense is guaranteed. Very recommendable.

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34 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

One of the best movies (and book) ever being told!!

10/10
Author: lenemia3 from Norway
26 June 2005

I love this movie for its honesty, and sadness... But most of all i feel for these 4 boys, and all the other young boys around in this world being abused. Carcaterra you have my respect! I think the cast in this movies is awesome and they all do an incredible job playing the main characters... The boys in particular... I am sure those scenes where they were abused was hard to do...This is a must see film for all people, and a must read book as well. It is brilliant, and really honest. A true story about 4 boys worst nightmares at a boys home, and how they got their revenge...It is so brilliant that i am amused it is a true story, and not a Hollywood written screenplay.... Amused in a positive way!

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43 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

4 childhood friends set out for petty prank that changes their lives forever.

10/10
Author: Anita M. Cal (Ladyamcal) from Los Angeles
4 January 2004

"Sleepers," is a captivating, taut, ride. It's well-crafted visually and storywise, keeping my attention from the first plot point to the last, which is hard to do, as I see dozens of movies each week. I can't believe I missed this back in '96. It must have been the pedestrian title, but at any rate, the performances were top-notch and the story, both intriguing and heart-wrenching. One seemingly harmless lifting of a hot dog, places four lives in a juvenile system that rips their promise apart. Wow. Who cares if the story is true, the movie is entertaining and a fun ride!

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43 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Interesting but uneven

6/10
Author: Martin Pollard from Caerphilly, Wales
29 July 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first hour of Sleepers is highly impressive, with the account of the protagonists' fall into the hands of their oppressors and the subsequent atrocities dealt with very well. The images of what happens to the boys are sensational but realistic, avoiding, except at one key point, the kind of triumphal uprising-against-the-system plot line that normally takes over. Here there are no heroes and no courage - just blunt brutality.

Unfortunately, the second half of the film, in which convoluted courtroom-revenge theatrics take over, is unable to deliver such a punch. The only interesting character from the prison meets his end far too early, and we are left, apparently, to cheer on the demise of characters whom we have only seen in half-glimpsed slow-motion fragments. We know nothing of them, and don't care about their plight, other than in a general 'they're bad so they must die' Hollywood kind of way.

We are also asked to support a priest who lies under oath to protect two boys who, by their own admission, have murdered a man in the middle of a bar. That several witnesses saw the murders happen in front of them is ignored by the end of the film - all logic having been cast to the four winds to support a system of values which, while intuitively just, is, on reflection, highly tenuous.

An interesting film, then, but one which needed less Hollywoodisation and a little more thoughtfulness.

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27 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Good

8/10
Author: rbverhoef (rbverhoef@hotmail.com) from The Hague, Netherlands
4 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Sleepers' is a good film, existing out of two parts. The first part is a drama that involves four young teenagers in the sixties, Hell's Kitchen, New York. They make a stupid mistake that sends them to a reformatory, the Wilkinson home for boys. Here they are sexually abused by the guards including Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon). The second parts is about the revenge the four boys have when they are grown up. If you do not want to know what they're plan is, read no further.

Two of the boys, John (Ron Eldard) and Tommy (Billy Crudup), have become killers and one day, 1981, they see Nokes in a restaurant. They walk up to him, shoot him, and leave. The District Attorney who handles their case is Michael (Brad Pitt), one of the four. He has asked for the case, not to win, but to lose. It is time for revenge. Together with Shakes (Jason Patric), the narrator of the story, they come up with a plan to expose events at Wilkinson. Key figures here are John and Tommy's lawyer Snyder (Dustin Hoffman), the girl they all like Carol (Minnie Driver), the Mafia boss from the neighborhood King Benny (Vittorio Gassman), and a priest who has been friends with the four forever, Father Bobby (Robert De Niro). Especially he has a very important role.

The first part is very good with four kid actors who are not annoying and a Bacon who is close to pure evil. The way they set up the story is very good as well. We learn to know the kids, King Benny, Father Bobby, the neighborhood. We feel we understand how things work in Hell's Kitchen which is pretty important to make events plausible when the kids have grown up. The second part is not as good but as least as interesting. There are more question we could ask here, but fine actors like De Niro, Hoffman, Pitt and Patric know how to create believable characters. Although what they do might not be the right thing, we somehow hope they pull it off.

Director Barry Levinson has made a good film, with 147 minutes a little too long maybe. He finds the right way to tell this sad story, with a perfect set-up and with interesting courtroom scenes in the second part. That is sort of an achievement since we know the whole thing is scripted there. The star power probably does the rest. Hoffman and De Niro are great as always, Bacon is perfectly creepy, Pitt, Patric and Driver are effective. John Williams' score is great. We feel it, but it never distracts from the story. 'Sleepers' is most definitely worth watching.

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