DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson
May Contain Spoilers!
When I look back on Sleepers, I can remember a film in which it seemed that everybody was talking about back in 1996. The controversial “story”, suggestions that it is true are in dispute, of four boys who accidentally maimed a man after they stole and hotdog cart as a summer prank in the late 1960’s, and end up being abused in a children home by a group of paedophile guards led by Kevin Bacon. Growing up in New York’s, Hell’s Kitchen led two of them be come notorious gangland murderers and they happen upon Bacon later in life, murdering him in a restaurant.
The film plays out around their trial as the lads, now men, set out to shed light on their abuse and that of others in the institution in which they were incarcerated. The story is strong, with the vigilance not restrained, but it’s palatable, and satisfying to see a man who we know to be a paedophile brought to some form of justice by his victims, whilst never shying away from the life shattering impact that such abuse has.
Though this is Hollywood. It’s Hollywood grit, it Hollywood’s Hell’s Kitchen. The dour tones are dressed up to makes this assessable by a much broader audience and it works. The cast was all up and coming in ’96 with Jason Patrick who after this and Speed 2: Cruise Control (1998) did little else of consequence, Brad Pitt who is a mega-star now and Minnie Driver who enjoyed some success in the late 1990’s but seemed to disappear in the 15 years which followed, now back on our screens in the U.S. comedy, About A Boy.
This is an issue movie, aimed at getting a spot on Oprah, commanding headlines, asking tough questions but never really finding the answers. There are none. Vial people exist and whether it is right to murder them or not is always going to open for debate.
But this is a decent movie but one that once the media attention had waned, was little more than a movie of the week. Still worth a watch though, if not for Robert De Nero’s morally ambiguous priest…