SassyFlix | Sleepers


  • R
  • 1996-10-18
  • 02:27:00
7/ 10
202427 votes

Crime, Drama, Thriller

Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra, Tommy Marcano, Michael Sullivan, and John Reilly are childhood friends in Hell's Kitchen in the mid-1960s. Father Robert "Bobby" Carillo, their parish priest, is a father figure to them. However, they start running small errands for local gangster, King Benny.

In the summer of 1967, they accidentally injure a man while robbing a hot dog vendor. Sentenced to the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York, the boys are physically and sexually abused by guards Sean Nokes, Henry Addison, Ralph Ferguson, and Adam Styler. The abuse changes them and their friendship forever.

During their stay at the facility, they participate in Wilkinson's annual football game between the guards and inmates. Michael convinces Rizzo, a black inmate, to play as hard as they can to show the guards they can fight back. He agrees, and helps win the game. Humiliated, the guards inflict severe beatings on the boys, put them in solitary confinement for weeks, and beat Rizzo to death, telling his family he died of pneumonia.

In the spring of 1968, shortly before Shakes' release from Wilkinson, he suggests they publicly report the abuse. The others refuse, with Michael asserting that no one would believe them, or care. They then decide never to speak of the abuse — even after they are all released. The night before Shakes is released, Nokes says he and the other guards have arranged a "farewell party", in which they are brutally abused.

In 1981, 13 years later, John and Tommy – now career criminals – unexpectedly encounter Nokes, now a private security guard, by chance in a Hell's Kitchen pub. Confronting him, he dismisses the abuse he put them through, and they shoot him dead in front of witnesses. Michael, who has become an assistant district attorney, gets himself assigned to the case; he secretly intends to botch the prosecution and expose what the guards did and Wilkinson's role in the cover up.

Michael and Shakes, now a reporter, forge a plan to free John and Tommy and get revenge on the remaining abusers. With the help of others (including King Benny and their childhood friend Carol, a social worker), they carry out their plan using information compiled by Michael on the backgrounds of the former Wilkinson guards. They also hire Danny Snyder, a washed-up, alcoholic lawyer, to defend John and Tommy.

The plan will only work if he can damage Nokes' reputation and place John and Tommy at another location at the time of the shooting. Ferguson, when called as a witness for Nokes' character, is forced to admit that he, Nokes, and other guards abused boys. To clinch the case, however, they need a key witness who can give John and Tommy an alibi. Shakes has a long talk with Father Bobby, who resists at first but – after hearing of the abuse – reluctantly agrees to perjure himself. At trial, Father Bobby testifies John and Tommy were with him at a New York Knicks game at the time of the shooting and has three ticket stubs to prove it. As a result, John and Tommy are acquitted.

The remaining guards are also punished for their crimes: Addison, now a politician who still molests children, is killed by Little Caesar, a local drug kingpin and Rizzo's older brother; Styler, now a corrupt policeman, is imprisoned for taking bribes and murdering a drug dealer; and Ferguson, a social worker, loses his job and family as a result of his admission in court.

Michael, Shakes, John, Tommy, and Carol meet at a bar to celebrate – the last time the four of them are together. Shakes remains a reporter, living in Hell's Kitchen. Michael quits the DA's office, moves to the English countryside, becomes a carpenter and never marries. John drinks himself to death and Tommy is murdered; neither live to see age 30. Carol also stays in Hell's Kitchen as a social worker and has a son, whom she names after the four boys.