Sleepers: Revisiting an Incredible Movie and Book

Sleepers is a 1996 film that is based off the true-life story of four boys who were brutalized by the juvenile justice system in New York. This film was considered one of the best in 1996. It featured a powerful cast that includes Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Robert De Niro, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup, and plenty of others.

Sleepers was directed and produced by Barry Levinson. Critics gave the film overall favorable reviews and it was well received by audiences. The box office revenue for Sleepers was $165 million and the budget for the film was $44 million.  It’s been 21 years since this film has been made and it continues to entertain and amaze audiences today.

The story starts off in the mid-1960s in New York City. Hell’s Kitchen which is located on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan. Four neighborhood friends are having a good time living their childhood and learning about life. The boy’s names are Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra, Tommy Marcano, Michael Sullivan, and John Reilly. They all attend a Catholic school within their neighborhood and they happen to be friends a tough neighborhood priest named Father Robert “Bobby” Carillo who is played by Robert De Niro in the film.

Sleepers takes people back to the 60s era within New York City. The film captures the essence of New York City life during that period. The boys engage with the mob, listen to period music and the film’s set even manages to accurately portray this classic era.

That is one of the reasons why Sleepers is such a great picture. It fits nicely into the category of mob films that Hollywood was constantly turning out during the 90s. Movies such as Goodfellas, Casino, Carlito’s Way and Donnie Brasco were made during the 90s as well and audiences were really entertained by these mob related films. Back to the story.

The film continues showing the lives of the boys until one day they decide to play a prank on a hot dog vendor. The prank is simple: one of the boys will distract the vendor while the other boys steal hot dogs off his cart. At first, this prank goes well until the vendor discovers what is happening.

After being discovered, three of the boys take the cart and then they start to run with it. They run away from the vendor as he chases them. Eventually, the boys come to a subway entrance where they dangle the cart over a set of stairs. They were going to let the cart go right when the vendor was about to catch them. This way, the vendor would have to save his cart and not get the boys.

However, the three boys were not strong enough to hold the cart over the stairs – it tumbles down the steps and ends up smashing into a man. He is seriously injured. The four boys are then sent off to the Wilkinson Home for Boys. Once they arrive they meet a sadistic prison guard named Sean Nokes who is played by Kevin Bacon.

Nokes and his clique of prison guards single the boys out of sexual and physical abuse. This happens during their stay at Wilkinson. Once the boys are released they are scarred for life. Now, the story switches gear and it is the early 80s. The boys are grown up and living life. Two of the boys, John and Tommy, are now hitmen for the mob. One day while they are in a bar, they notice the guard Sean Nokes who was the ringleader in their abuse. They kill him.

After they are thrown in jail, Michael works for the district attorney and decides to botch the case. Lorenzo works for the newspaper and wants to expose what has happened. A big trail takes place and everyone who was involved in the boy’s abuse are now getting paid back for their crimes.

This film was based on real events (supposedly). It was gut wrenching to watch some parts and it really exposed how vulnerable juveniles are in places like Wilkinson’s. Sleepers was an excellent film because it tackles so many issues that affect modern society, the prison system and how justice is carried out in America. If you never watched this movie in the past, you should do so now. If you never saw the film, you should take a look at it – chances are you will not be disappointed. It is a well-acted and written film with a great story.


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