147 Min | Crime – Drama – Thriller | December 1996
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt
Sleepers Review: The script explains “Sleepers” as, “the street name for anyone who spent time in a juvenile facility.” This portends young children are physically abused in “reform schools”, leading to permanent psychological problems throughout life. So, “Sleepers” are physically and sexually abused young children. Those afflicted, herein at the “Wilkinson Home for Boys”, are four childhood friends, from New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen”, Joe Perrino and Jason Patric (as Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra), Brad Renfro and Brad Pitt (as Michael Sullivan), Jonathan Tucker and Billy Crudup (as Thomas Marcano), and Geoffrey Wigdor and Ron Eldard (as John Reilly).
In Sleepers, the eight actors are well-cast, and, their work is extraordinary. Mr. Perrino essays, arguably, the octet’s greatest performance, the film is centered around his stinging, sensitive characterization. Unfortunately, the story unravels, during the second half of the film. A serious topic is bowdlerized by an increasingly implausible set of circumstances. Without giving anything away, note that social worker Minnie Driver sums up the film’s ideological shortcomings with the line, “What is this, a gay bar?” The line, and the actors’ lack of traumatized reaction, helps separate being “gay” from the sadistic homosexual pedophile portrayed by Kevin Bacon (as Sean Nokes).
The single “Academy Award” nomination, for John Williams’ always excellent music, is shocking. Sleepers contains at least five performances worthy of a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar, perhaps, with so many in contention, it was easier to simply move on. In addition to those mentioned above, you have alcoholic lawyer Dustin Hoffman, kindly mobster Vittorio Gassman, and Terry Kinney. Mr. Kinney’s witness stand meltdown is most amazing. Stu Linder’s editing, Timothy Galvin’s art direction, and Beth Rubino’s set direction are also award worthy. It’s hard to believe five films topped the Gavin/Rubino work on “Sleepers”. Set in the late 1960s, the first part of “Sleepers” (forgiving the fact that the lads would not have been listening to Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” in 1967) is a fantastic film.