Sleepers is a 1996 American legal crime drama film written, produced, and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name. The film starred Kevin Bacon, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Vittorio Gassmann.
Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra, 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 Robert "Bobby" Carillo, serves as a father figure to the boys and keeps an eye on them. However, they start running small errands for a local gangster, King Benny.
In the summer of 1967, their lives take a turn when they accidentally almost kill a man after pulling a prank on a hot dog vendor. As punishment, the boys are sentenced to the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York; Tommy, Michael and John sentenced to 12-18 months, while Shakes is given 6-12 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.
During the boys' stay at the facility, they participate in Wilkinson's annual football game between the guards and inmates, one that the latter lose on purpose to avoid reprisals from the former. Michael convinces Rizzo, a black inmate, that they should play as hard as they can to show the guards they can fight back. Rizzo agrees, and helps to win the game. As a result of this, Shakes, Tommy, Michael, and John are all beaten and thrown into solitary confinement for several weeks, and the guards beat Rizzo to death.
Shortly before Shakes' release from Wilkinson, he insists that they should publicly report the abuse, but the others refuse, knowing that no one would believe them. They all therefore vow never to speak of the horrors and abuse the guards put them through once they are all out.
Fourteen years later, John and Tommy, now career criminals, encounter Nokes by chance in a Hell's Kitchen pub and kill him in front of witnesses. Michael, who has become an assistant district attorney, arranges to be assigned to the case, secretly intending to botch the prosecution. He and Shakes, who is writing for a newspaper, forge a plan to free John and Tommy and get revenge on the guards who abused them. With the help of others, including Carol, their childhood friend and now a social worker, and King Benny, they carry out their revenge using information compiled by Michael on the background and lives of the former Wilkinson overseers. They also hire Danny Snyder, a washed-up lawyer and alcoholic, to defend John and Tommy to make it seem as if their situation is hopeless.
Michael's plan will only work if he can discredit Nokes and place John and Tommy at another location. Ferguson, when called in court as a witness for Nokes' character, is forced to admit that he, Nokes, and other guards abused the boys. To clinch the case, however, they need a key witness who can give John and Tommy an alibi. Shakes has a long talk with Father Bobby, who first resists but eventually, after Shakes tells him of the abuse, agrees to commit perjury, saying that the accused were with him at a New York Knicks game at the time of the shooting. As a result, John and Tommy are acquitted.
The remaining guards are also punished for their crimes: Addison, an up-and-coming politician who still molests children, is murdered by Little Caesar, a local drug kingpin and Rizzo's older brother; Styler, now a corrupt policeman, is arrested for taking bribes and murdering a drug dealer; and Ferguson, a social worker, loses his job and family and is plagued by guilt for the rest of his life.
Michael, Shakes, John, Tommy and Carol meet at a bar to celebrate - the last time they would all be together again. Shakes remains a newspaper reporter, living in Hell's Kitchen. Michael quits the district attorney's office, moves to the English countryside, becomes a carpenter and never marries. John drinks himself to death and Tommy is murdered; both die before age 30. Carol stays in the city as a social worker and has a son, whom she names after all of the four boys.Jason Patric as adult Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra
Joe Perrino as young Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra
Brad Pitt as adult Michael Sullivan
Brad Renfro as young Michael
Billy Crudup as adult Thomas "Tommy" Marcano
Jonathan Tucker as young Tommy
Ron Eldard as adult John Reilly
Geoffrey Wigdor as young John
Minnie Driver as adult Carol
Monica Polito as young Carol
Robert De Niro as Father Bobby Carillo
Kevin Bacon as Sean Nokes
Bruno Kirby as Shakes' father
Dustin Hoffman as Danny Snyder
Jeffrey Donovan as Henry Addison
Lennie Loftin as Adam Styler
Terry Kinney as Ralph Ferguson
Vittorio Gassman as King Benny
Frank Medrano as Fat Mancho
Eugene Byrd as Rizzo
John Slattery as Ron Carlson
Danny Mastrogiorgio as Nick Davenport
Wendell Pierce as Little Caesar
James Pickens Jr. as Marlboro/Mess hall guard
Larry Hryb as Scorekeeper
The film received generally positive reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a score of 74%. Review aggregator Metacritic gives it a weighted score of 49, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
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.