Film Review: Sleepers 1996 David Bennun
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(dir. Barry Levinson, starring Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon,
Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt, Jason Patric)

[Melody Maker, 1996]

JESUS, BUT I'M pissed off at Barry Levinson. I had things to do this evening, but instead I hightailed it up to London to see his new film. I should have stayed home and drilled myself a new hole in the head.
 It goes like this: four geeky Hell's Kitchen boys grow up in an idyllic slum full of cute, honourable criminals, where kids can walk the streets in safety and drug dealers get strung from lampposts. Daddy beats up mommy now and then, but hey, that's the way, and you can always turn to tough, streetwise priest Father Bobby. No kidding; Father Bobby, as played by. . . Bobby De Niro, perfecting his Bobby De Niro Impression. You'd have thought We're No Angels would have scared him out of cassocks for good.
 Anyway, the kids get sent to kiddie prison for being risible stereotypes, where they are horrifically abused by Kevin Bacon's warder. This is supposed to be shock and appal us, but in truth, it's quite gratifying, as the boys make for less plausible characters than the Little Rascals, and Bacon's performance is fabulously vile. He's the solitary reason to get Sleepers out on video (give it a few weeks; please don't make my mistake and go to the cinema on its account.)
 Anyway, the foursome grow up to be Brad Pitt, Jason Patric and a pair of heavies, presumably via a series of head transplants, and wreak revenge on Bacon, at which point you can stop watching. I didn't, and regretted it, as Sleepers then somnambulates into every witless cliché it hasn't already visited.
 The guy who wrote the book claimed it was true story. Investigations have since shown this to be highly doubtful, but it's still more believable than the fact this film got made. You owe me two hours, Levinson, you over-indulged timewaster.

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