Sleepers (film)

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Sleepers (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barry Levinson
Produced by Barry Levinson
Steve Golin
Screenplay by Barry Levinson
Based on Sleepers 
by Lorenzo Carcaterra
Starring Kevin Bacon
Robert De Niro
Dustin Hoffman
Jason Patric
Brad Pitt
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Editing by Stu Linder
Studio Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Propaganda Films
Baltimore Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 18, 1996 (1996-10-18)
Running time 147 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $44 million
Box office $165,615,285[2]

Sleepers is a 1996 American legal drama film written, produced, and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name.


Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra, Thomas "Tommy" Marcano, Michael Sullivan, and John Reilly are childhood friends in Hell's Kitchen, New York City in the mid-1960s. The local priest, Father Bobby Carillo, plays an important part in their lives and keeps an eye on them. However, early on they start running small errands for a local gangster, King Benny.

In the summer of 1967, their lives take a turn when they nearly kill a man after pulling a prank on a hot dog vendor. As their punishment, Tommy, Michael, and John are sentenced to serve 12 to 18 months at the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York while Shakes is sentenced to 6 to 12 months. There, the boys are systematically abused and raped by guards Sean Nokes, Henry Addison, Ralph Ferguson, and Adam Styler. The horrifying abuse changes the boys and their friendship forever. Out of shame, they urge their parents in letters to not visit during their stay at the home, and shortly before Shakes's release, they all vow never to speak of the horrors they were put through once they're all out.

Fourteen years later, John and Tommy, now known gangsters, kill Nokes after a chance encounter in a Hell's Kitchen pub in front of witnesses. Michael, now an assistant district attorney, arranges to be assigned to the case, secretly intending to botch the prosecution. He and Shakes (Patric), a newspaper reporter, forge a plan to get revenge on all the guards who abused them. With the help of friends, including Carol, a social worker, and King Benny, they carry out their revenge using information on the Wilkinson guards compiled by Michael. They hire Danny Snyder, a washed-up lawyer, to defend John and Tommy to make it seem as if the case is hopeless.

To clinch the case they need a key witness who can give John and Tommy an alibi. Shakes has a long talk with Father Bobby, who agrees to lie on the stand by saying John and Tommy were with him at a New York Knicks game on the night of the shooting. As a result, they are acquitted, and Ferguson exposes himself and Nokes as abusers when called as a witness in court. The remaining guards are punished for their crimes: Addison is killed by a drug gang in retaliation for his part in the death of the gang leader's younger brother, who was at the Wilkinson home at the same time as the four boys; and Styler, a corrupt policeman accused of extorting and killing a drug dealer, is exposed and arrested. After the case is over, Michael quits his job and moves to the English countryside where he becomes a carpenter, Tommy (being shot) and John (from alcohol abuse) both die before their 30th birthdays and Carol stays in the city and becomes a single mother to a son that she names after all four boys.



The film received mixed to positive reviews and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 73%[3] and Metacritic giving it a weighted score of 49.[4]

John Williams was nominated for the best original score Academy Award. Minnie Driver was selected as best supporting actress by the London Film Critics Circle.


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