Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Movie Review: Sleepers (1996)
An elaborate and dark story of child abuse and calculated revenge, Sleepers is complex, intense and satisfying. Regardless of whether the drama is based on true events, the movie offers a gripping and memorable experience.
The four friends are quickly singled out by the Wilkinson guards for special abuse. Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon), the most ruthless of the guards, embarks on a campaign of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, with several other guards joining in. Father Carillo tries to stay in touch with Michael through regular visits, but the boys withdraw into a cone of silence and refuse to disclose the repulsive abuse that they are suffering.
Lorenzo Carcaterra wrote the book, and claims that the story is true. This has been disputed by various official sources who claim no records exist for the events described in the book. The controversy doesn't detract from the movie. Director Barry Levinson wrote the screenplay for Sleepers and delivers a moving, well-paced and refined film, neatly split into three thirds: the innocent context, the horrifying abuse, and the cold revenge. Each part has its own attraction, Levinson nurturing the drama from Hell's Kitchen through the torture chambers of Wikinson and finally to the court rooms of justice.
De Niro's performance is perfect, from a young priest all too personally familiar with the troubles that youth can get themselves into, to the old mentor handed the power to help his friends but at a significant personal cost.
Jason Patric and Minnie Driver are less impressive, Patric struggling to find a place for the adult Lorenzo in the unfolding court drama, while Driver's Carol character seems to exist solely to provide some female relief to the otherwise all-male cast.
Revenge is a dish best served cold; Sleepers gets both the revenge content and the delivery temperature right.
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