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Sleepers

Year: 1996
Production Co: Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer: Barry Levinson
Writer: Barry Levinson
Cast: Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Renfro, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver

An affecting drama about how life can turn on a dime. In the sweltering heat of a 1960s summer in rough neighbourhood of New York, four young boys decide to play what they think will be a harmless prank by stealing an ice cream cart.

When it gets away from them and careens down the stairs of a subway station it critically injures a man and the boys are sent to a juvenile detention home where a sadistic guard (Bacon) serially molests them all.

Years later, the four are grown, spread far and wide and occupying professions from lawyers to armed robbers and all suffering in their own way with what happened to them as kids. At Lorenzo's (Patric) behest, the four get back together to fight their greatest battle. Two of the boys, still friends and partners in crime, happen across their torturer in a Bronx restaurant and brutally gun him down in revenge while other diners look on.

When the case goes to court, the race is on to keep the pair out of jail for inflicting retribution the four now see as deserved. Lorenzo recruits Michael (Pitt), now a lawyer, and the plan is to engineer an incompetent lawyer to the prosecution (Hoffman) and ultimately test their friendship with their childhood mentor, the local Catholic priest (De Niro).

The presence of De Niro, Pitt, Hoffman and Patric gives the film an innate credibility and they're ably supported by lesser performers like Crudup and Renfro. The plot is satisfying and the stakes high, and Levinson's assured direction lets the story tell itself. Realistic rather than dour, it had awards written all over it.

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