Retro Review: Sleepers
‘Sleepers‘ is a 1996 thriller directed by Barry Levinson, sporting one impressive cast. Telling the story of four childhood friends who, after a prank goes disastrously wrong, are sentenced to a detention center for boys. There, they are brutalized in every conceivable way by the guards. 10 years later, the friends get their chance for revenge.
‘Sleepers‘ is a brutal film. For the first half hour we follow the four young friends from Hell’s Kitchen, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a run-of-the-mill coming of age story. The film introduces you to these kids, makes you like and care for them, which only makes it that more heartbreaking to see the undergo the torture, both physical and mental, at the boy’s home.
Every actor in the flick is fantastic. From the four young actors, including Brad Renfro and Jonathan Tucker, to their adult counterparts, and the supporting players in between. When a film features Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, Dustin Hoffman. Kevin Bacon and Billy Crudup, you know you are in for an amazing display of talent. De Niro is, in particular, hands in a stellar performance as Father Bobby, mentor and friend to the boys, while Bacon is just pure evil as his exact opposite.
‘Sleepers‘ is not an easy film to watch. It does not spare you, it does not wrap everything up in a pretty little bow and gives it a happy ending. Things like this never have a happy ending. It’s a film about childhoods stolen, lives ruined, and people trying, and often failing, to move on. But you should most definitely see it, if only for the performances.
Final Verdict: ‘Sleepers‘ is a fantastic, unflinching film. Made even darker by the patches of light we’re given, it raises some interesting, even crucial, questions about justice versus revenge. Worth watching for the performances alone, it grips you tight and doesn’t let you go until the end credits. If then.