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File:Sleepers (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Levinson
Screenplay byBarry Levinson
Produced byBarry Levinson
Steve Golin
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited byStu Linder
Music byJohn Williams
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Propaganda Films
Baltimore Pictures
Astoria Films
Distributed byWarner Bros.
(USA & Canada)
Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • October 18, 1996 (1996-10-18)
Running time
147 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$44 million[2]
Box office$165.6 million[3]

Sleepers is a 1996 American legal crime drama film written, produced, and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name. The film starred Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Vittorio Gassmann and Kevin Bacon among others.


Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra, Tommy Marcano, Michael Sullivan, and John Reilly are childhood friends in Hell's Kitchen, New York City in the mid-1960s. The local priest, Father Robert "Bobby" Carillo, serves as a father figure to the boys and keeps an eye on them. However, they start running small errands for a local gangster, King Benny.

In the summer of 1967, their lives take a turn when they nearly kill a man after pulling a prank on a hot dog vendor. As punishment, the boys are sentenced to the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York; Tommy, Michael and John sentenced to 12-18 months, while Shakes is given 6-12 months. There, the boys are systematically abused and raped by guards Sean Nokes, Henry Addison, Ralph Ferguson, and Adam Styler. The horrifying abuse changes the boys and their friendship forever.

During the boys' stay at the facility, they participate in Wilkinson's annual football game between the guards and inmates, one that the latter lose on purpose to avoid reprisals from the former. Michael convinces Rizzo, a black inmate, that they should play as hard as they can to show the guards they can fight back. Rizzo agrees, and helps to win the game. As a result of this, Shakes, Tommy, Michael, and John are all beaten and thrown into solitary confinement for several weeks, and the guards beat Rizzo to death.

Later, shortly before Shakes' release from Wilkinson, he insists that the boys should publicly report the abuse, but the others refuse, not wanting to keep reliving the horrors of it, and knowing that their claims–despite being genuine–would never be believed or cared about by the legal system. They all therefore vow never to speak of the horrors and abuse the guards put them through once they are all out.

Fourteen years later, John and Tommy, now career criminals, encounter Nokes by chance in a Hell's Kitchen pub and kill him in front of witnesses. Michael, who has become an assistant district attorney, arranges to be assigned to the case, secretly intending to botch the prosecution. He and Shakes, who is writing for a newspaper, forge a plan to free John and Tommy and get revenge on the guards who abused them. With the help of others, including Carol, their childhood friend and now a social worker, and King Benny, they carry out their revenge using information compiled by Michael on the background and lives of the former Wilkinson overseers. They also hire Danny Snyder, a washed-up lawyer and alcoholic, to defend John and Tommy to make it seem as if their situation is hopeless.

Michael's plan will only work if he can discredit Nokes and place John and Tommy at another location. Ferguson, when called in court as a witness for Nokes' character, is forced to admit that he, Nokes, and other guards abused the 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 first resists but eventually, after Shakes tells him of the abuse, agrees to commit perjury, saying that the accused were with him at a New York Knicks game at the time of the shooting. As a result, John and Tommy are acquitted.

The remaining guards are also punished for their crimes: Addison, an up-and-coming politician, is murdered by Little Caesar, a local drug kingpin and Rizzo's older brother; Styler, now a corrupt policeman who still molests young boys, is arrested for taking bribes and murdering a drug dealer; and Ferguson, a social worker, loses his job and family and is plagued by guilt for the rest of his life.

Michael, Shakes, John, Tommy and Carol meet at a bar to celebrate - the last time they would all be together again. Shakes remains a newspaper reporter, living in Hell's Kitchen. Michael quits the district attorney's office, moves to the English countryside, becomes a carpenter and never marries. John drinks himself to death and Tommy is murdered; both die before age 30. Carol stays in the city as a social worker and has a son, whom she names after all of the four boys.


  • Jason Patric as adult Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra
    • Joe Perrino as young Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra
  • Brad Pitt as adult Michael Sullivan
    • Brad Renfro as young Michael
  • Billy Crudup as adult Thomas "Tommy" Marcano
    • Jonathan Tucker as young Tommy
  • Ron Eldard as adult John Reilly
    • Geoffrey Wigdor as young John
  • Minnie Driver as adult Carol
    • Monica Polito as young Carol
  • Robert De Niro as Father Bobby Carillo
  • Kevin Bacon as Sean Nokes
  • Bruno Kirby as Shakes' father
  • Dustin Hoffman as Danny Snyder
  • Jeffrey Donovan as Henry Addison
  • Lennie Loftin as Adam Styler
  • Terry Kinney as Ralph Ferguson
  • Vittorio Gassman as King Benny
  • Frank Medrano as Fat Mancho
  • Eugene Byrd as Rizzo
  • John Slattery as Ron Carlson
  • Danny Mastrogiorgio as Nick Davenport
  • Wendell Pierce as Little Caesar
  • James Pickens Jr. as Marlboro/Mess hall guard
  • Larry Hryb as Scorekeeper


The film received generally positive reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a score of 74%.[4] Review aggregator Metacritic gives it a weighted score of 49,[5] indicating "mixed or average reviews."

John Williams was nominated for the best original score Academy Award. Minnie Driver was selected as best supporting actress by the London Film Critics Circle.


  1. "SLEEPERS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1996-10-21. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  2. "Sleepers (1996) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC.
  3. Sleepers at Box Office Mojo
  4. Sleepers at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. Sleepers at Metacritic

External links[]

Template:Barry Levinson