Directed by Barry Levinson and featuring an all-star cast including the likes of Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Minnie Driver, Sleepers tells the tale of a group of four boys from Hell's Kitchen, who through playing a practical joke end up seriously injuring an innocent passer-by. Father Bobby (Robert De Niro) - a literal father figure for the boys - is powerless to stop the boys being convicted, and the four of them are sent away to the Wilkinson Home for Boys. And it's there that they meet Sean Noakes (Kevin Bacon), a sadistic guard who has a liking for young boys...
Sleepers is a movie of two halves. The first half - which tells the story of the young quartet of friends - makes for difficult viewing at times, and it's almost a relief when the ordeal is over and we fast forward a good few years. It's here that the main “known” cast comes into play, which will likely take many first-time viewers by surprise - and I say surprise, as this is almost half way through the running time of the film. Here we meet them as late-twenties adults, still bearing the scars of their childhood experiences and each of them dysfunctional in one way or another. And when two of them bump into Noakes in a bar, there can be only one outcome...
At this point the story turns to a court case and a bizarre sequence of events which results in the two murderers standing trial, prosecuted by one of the other four, in a desperate game-plan to let them walk free.
Sadly, the second half of the movie is wanting, with the plot never truly convincing (it wouldn't take much to discover the prosecutor was childhood friends with the accused), and the average viewer will struggle to find a sense of empathy with the main characters. Perhaps the problem is there's so little to link the original boys with the characters we see in their grown-up guise: there's a huge void between their leaving the Wilkinson home for boys and the final characters we see, in fact they're linked solely by a short monotone voice-over by Jason Patric. There's little in the way of character development at this point, and this is where the movie falls short. The other problem is the lacklustre pacing, which, along with the story-of-two-parts, makes the movie too disjointed to be satisfying.
I'd also go as far to say that the performances of the well-known cast members are overshadowed by those of the young cast; with the exception of De Niro and Bacon, everyone else seems to be cruising.
Overall this isn't a bad movie, it's just not very well told. Although the final, moving scene maybe, just maybe, makes it a little better...