182: Sleepers

Sleepers (R) - 1996 - Runtime: 147 minutes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt
Director: Barry Levinson

Wow. This movie hit me pretty hard. Not that I was completely floored by the movie, but it did not leave my brain until several hours later. This was a good movie about friends, loyalty and growing up. It tugs at memories and nostalgia a lot, but it's tastefully done, much better than Mystic River, in my opinion.

The story involves a group of four friends living in Hell's Kitchen during the sixties. They're rough around the edges, but all in all, they're good kids. At least, that's what their priest believes (played by De Niro), until one day when they're lives are forever changed. They decide to steal some hot dogs from a vendor, but instead it goes horribly wrong and they all end up in juvenile detention for a year. There, they start to endure all kinds of torture from the guards, ranging from beat ups to actual sexual abuse. It's pretty horrifying. Flash to over ten years later and a couple of the kids, now turned local thugs, run into one of the main guards eating at a restaurant (the evil Kevin Bacon). Of course, they dispatch with the man and are subsequently arrested. And it comes down to a decision by their priest if they make it out alive.

The story, I think, isn't as important as the friendship involved between these four guys and the paths they take after the disastrous events with the hot dog vendor. The movie was long, but it never felt like anything could be cut out - the movie strikes a good balance between its first act - they kids - and the second act - the grown ups. I love movies where we get past & present - I like seeing where these characters have ended up and how sometimes the pull of fate is too much for friendship. Now & Then, Stand by Me, The Sandlot, Radio Flyer. Plus, I think I like the fifties and sixties version of childhood portrayed in these movies. It's like an ideal time for them, but looking back, it's much more complicated than and not so innocent of a time.

I thought the cast was excellent, the kids are great and the grown ups who play them were just as good. The movie does a good job at showing the emotional scars left behind in all of them. I liked how in the end, it didn't matter what the outcome was, they were never fully going to get over what happened to them. It's quite a downer of a movie, but it's not an oppressive feeling during the movie. It just weighs on your mind a long time afterwards. And that's a great movie - one that digs under your skin and leaves its mark long after you've left the screen.

Rating: Rent It!

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