At the base is a powerful book. The autobiographical novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra. The film is a concentrate of Hollywood stardom expertly directed by an experienced director like Barry Levinson. We are talking about Sleepers (1996), the film to see tonight on tv at 9 pm on Iris. A friendship drama at all costs that makes its stars shine. From Brad Pitt to Robert De Niro as far as Vittorio Gassman.
The plot of Sleepers
Sleepers, in American slang, are kids who, once they come out of reformers, have a very high probability of becoming adult delinquents. A bit like what happens to two of the four friends who are the protagonists of this story. We are in Hell’s Kitchen, a slum area of Manhattan, in the summer of 1967. Four boys, Lorenzo “Shakes”, Michael, John and Tommy, perform a stunt against a hot dog seller, almost causing the death of an elderly person in subway exit. Sentenced to 18 months in reform school, the boys live in hell: rape, beatings, violence. Especially at the hands of the head of the guard, Nokes.
Fourteen years later, on the night of November 1, 1981, John and Tommy, meanwhile become professional killers and drug addicts, meet Nokes by chance and kill him in front of many witnesses. Michael, now deputy district attorney, gets the case assigned. And, with the help of Shakes, who is now a journalist, he decides to screw up the prosecution and expose the crimes that took place in the reformatory. To do this, however, he must bring the lawyer of his friends to his side. And most importantly, the old priest of their parish, Father Bobby.
A stellar cast: from Brad Pitt to Robert De Niro
The strength of Sleepers it is in its history. Powerful and tragic. But also in the interpreters, who put themselves at the service of a material, from many points of view, rough. The protagonist – and voiceover narrator – is the Shakes played by Jason Patrick. Then one of the young stars on which Hollywood was betting a lot. But, and it is inevitable, the scene is often stolen from him by some supporting actors. By DA Brad Pitt, sure. Fresh from the great successes of Interview with the vampire And Seven.
But, in particular, by a trio of sacred monsters like Robert De Niro, in the role of Father Bobby. Dustin Hoffman, in those of the public attorney Snyder. And Vittorio Gassman, in one of his last appearances, who here plays the local boss King Benny.
There are certainly many other recognizable faces of Sleepers. John and Tommy are, respectively, Ron Eldard And Billy Crudup, here in his film debut. The terrifying Nokes is Kevin Bacon. Carol, the only girl in the group of friends, is Minnie Driver.
True story or great novel?
Since its release, Sleepers (both the book and the film) has been the subject of very fierce criticism from American legal associations. Who have questioned its veracity. The author, Lorenzo Carcaterra, continues to argue that it is the true story of his childhood. But the searches carried out in the New York court records found no cases similar to those in his book.
Also, Carcaterra’s school attendance records show that he may not have been in jail for as long as he said. And he may not have been in prison on the dates indicated for some events in the book. David Stouta reporter from New York Times who wrote an article on the controversy, said in an interview that he could not find anything in the newspaper’s vast library, or anywhere else, that resembled the case. Carcaterra claims that names and places have been changed to avoid legal problems and reiterates his version. Although many people from his youth have come forward to say that nothing like this happened to him.
This controversy, however, does not detract from the power of history.
Brad Pitt’s regret in Sleepers
Years later, retracing the most important films of his career during an interview, Brad Pitt also entered Sleepers. But he doesn’t have a positive memory of it. Because, He says, does not like his performance in the film. “I think I’ve done a disservice. That was the time when I started getting really confused and upset. Because my career was starting to explode. Suddenly, I had a lot of people in my ears telling me what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. ‘
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