7.6/10
180,614
282 user 67 critic

Sleepers (1996)

Trailer
2:16 | Trailer
After a prank goes disastrously wrong, a group of boys are sent to a detention center where they are brutalized. Thirteen years later, an unexpected random encounter with a former guard gives them a chance for revenge.

Director:

Barry Levinson

Writers:

Lorenzo Carcaterra (book), Barry Levinson (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
1,461 ( 44)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Bacon ... Nokes
Billy Crudup ... Tommy
Robert De Niro ... Father Bobby
Ron Eldard ... John
Minnie Driver ... Carol
Vittorio Gassman ... King Benny
Dustin Hoffman ... Danny Snyder
Terry Kinney ... Ferguson
Bruno Kirby ... Shakes' Father
Frank Medrano ... Fat Mancho
Jason Patric ... Shakes
Joe Perrino ... Young Shakes
Brad Pitt ... Michael
Brad Renfro ... Young Michael
Geoffrey Wigdor ... Young John
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Storyline

As children, Lorenzo Carcaterra - Shakes to his friends - Michael Sullivan, Tommy Marcano, and John Reilly were inseparable. They grew up in Hell's Kitchen, a far from perfect neighborhood, one filled as Shakes says with scams and shake downs, but one where the rules were known and easily understood by its residents. The one adult who they admired was Father Bobby Carelli, who understood them as kids more than most adults and more than he himself would like to admit. In 1967, their lives would change forever when a typical teenage prank went wrong which led to the four of them being sentenced to various terms at Wilkinson Home for Boys, a reformatory. There, they were physically, emotionally and sexually abused primarily by Sean Nokes, the predatory lead guard of their cell block, and fellow guards Ralph Ferguson, Henry Addison, and Adam Styler, although there were other decent figures of authority at the home, including a few other guards. Their time at the home affected the four, ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Four friends have made a mistake that will change their lives forever. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, graphic violence and two scenes of strong sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Billy Crudup and John Slattery appeared in Spotlight (2015), which also revolves on similar themes of abuse. See more »

Goofs

Pen disappears from someone's pocket during the courtroom scene. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lorenzo: This is a true story about friendship that runs deeper than blood. This is my story and that of the only three friends in my life that truely mattered. Two of them were killers who never made it past the age of 30. The other's a non-practicing attorney living with the pain of his past - too afraid to let it go, never confronting its horror. I'm the only one who can speak for them, and the children we were.
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Connections

Referenced in Bad Girls: Episode #6.4 (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Witchi Tai To
Performed by Everything Is Everything
Written by James G. Pepper
Courtesy of Vanguard Records
By arrangement with Warner Special Products
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User Reviews

Interesting drama but provides no moral discussion or ethical complexity, never questioning the right or wrongs of the actions
28 May 2006 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

As boys growing up in Hell's kitchen Tommy, John, Lorenzo and Michael, were raised in a harsh world despite the moral guidance of the streetwise Father Bobby. Carefree but always in trouble, one prank goes too far and sees a passer-by killed and the boys sent away for 18 months to a young offenders home. Once there they are subjected to cruel and persistent sexual abuse and beatings from the guards, led by Sean Noakes. Years go by and the friends drift apart – with Tommy and John becoming gangsters. When the pair spot Noakes in a bar they kill him and walk out, but are picked up later by the police and charged with murder. With revenge on their minds, DA Michael takes the case with the aim of making getting his friends off while also exposing Noakes for who he was; meanwhile Lorenzo sets out to help him with the set-up, while also taking revenge on the rest of the guards.

Sold on the back of the heavy star cast, I went to see this film at time of release and must admit that I wasn't that impressed by it that much. Rewatching it recently I had no reason to change my mind with a film that lives on the surface and, although providing some powerful moments to get the audience on its side, has much a simplistic moral outlook that it significantly damages the telling of the story. The use of narration makes the film drag and this is particularly evident in the first stage where the boys are free. The second stage is more interesting and disturbing as it documents the abuse suffered by the boys – although in my opinion is far too safe and sanitised with the cop-out that the memories are buried too deep in our narrator's mind to recall clearly. The final third brings matters to a close and is easily the most engaging as many viewers will find the flow of the story enough to hold their interest.

However for me what I couldn't shake off was the lack of questioning in the film; other than a thoughtful Father Bobby silently wrestling with his conscience (in just one scene!) the film never even hints that what the men might be doing is morally wrong. Now it may well be that the circumstances means that they were fully justified but the fact that the film never even broaches the subject and just expects us to get behind the cold revenge of Michael et al was a problem for me. Wouldn't the moral complexity of their actions be worth looking at, even if the outcome was the same wouldn't it have been more interesting if the audience were being pushed to ask questions of themselves? Very likely the answer is yes, but with Levinson driving we are not to know; for him this is a straight drama with right defeating wrong in a manner that makes for a nice courtroom drama.

The simplicity of the writing and delivery leaves the cast with very little to do in the main group of roles. Patric is flat and dull – qualities that could easily describe his narration which is delivered to the general detriment of the film. Pitt is equally as poor, with little to get his teeth into. Eldard and Crudup just seem to enjoy their minor roles alongside such a starry ensemble. With such weak turns from the main players, Bacon easily dominates the film with a monstrous character that he makes larger that life. Not comparable to his much better turn as a child abuser in a much different film recently, but he still dominates the middle section of the film. De Niro sleep walks a character that is so simplistic that it looks like Father Bobby had been developed using Microsoft Paint; he is a welcome presence but adds little. Hoffman is OK but again is just a nice addition to the cast. Minnie Driver is present for some reason I didn't get but the only performance that gets close to being interesting is that of an older Kinney; despite everything else he gets the closest to producing genuine interest in me (sadly the film has no interest beyond him doing this as part of moving the story forward).

Overall then a star-heavy film that wears it's worthy credentials on its sleeve and refuses any debate or examination in favour of a straight drama. The cast find themselves with little to do with such a simplistic approach from Levinson and nobody can lift the material even if some of them stick in the mind much longer than others. I'm sure that the story has enough to engage the casual viewer but those looking for depth or shades of grey in the morally complex tale will be found wanting – to Levinson there is none of that here – just wrongs that can be righted by any means necessary. As a result though, it is a lesser film and one that made little impression on me.


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Details

Official Sites:

Levinson.com

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 October 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sleepers See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$44,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,305,745, 20 October 1996

Gross USA:

$53,315,285

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$165,615,285
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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