Magazine article Newsweek

Sleepers

Magazine article Newsweek

Sleepers

Article excerpt

Fact or fiction, 'Sleepers' is a snore

ON A HOT SUMMER DAY IN NEW York's Hell's Kitchen in 1967, four adolescent boys play a prank that nearly kills a man. They are sentented to a year at the Wilkenson Home for Boys, where they are tortured and sexually abused by sadistic guards. In 1981 two of the boys-now streetwise killers-encounter the most brutal of the guards (Kevin Bacon) in a bar and blow him away. The assistant D.A. (Brad Pitt) who prosecutes the killers happens to be another of the abused kids; he's requested the case to lose it. Enlisting the support of the fourth boy (Jason Patric), a sympathetic parish priest (Robert De Niro), the neighborhood mafioso (Vittorio Gassman) and a broken-down defense lawyer (Dustin Hoffman), the D.A. masterminds a byzantine plot to get his old chums off and extract his long-desired revenge on the other guards.

That is the sensationalistic plot of Simper, director Barry Levinson's adaptation of Lorenzo Carcaterra's controversial novel, which the author claimed was based on autobiographical fact. Whether the book was true or not does not concern me; what's amazing about Levinson's star-studded movie is that it tells this highly charged story so ineptly that nothing rings true. The harder this overinflated revenge fantasy tried to whip my emotions to a boiling point, the deeper into boredom I sank.

The problems start with Levinson's script, which overemploys Patric's florid narration to tell you what you're about to see, what it means and how you should feel about it. …

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