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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