Barry Levinson didn't need a screenplay for this movie; he needed an editing machine and a good copyright lawyer.
Oooooh, a movie about Kevin Bacon sodomizing little kids. Can't you see the studio executives drooling over this one?
When the kids, victimized by guards at a juvenile detention facility, grow up they turn out to be Jason Patric (Lorenzo), Brad Pitt (Michael), Billy Crudup (Tommy) and Ron Eldard (John). After Billy and Ron, who turn into killers, coincidentally run into their former torturer (Bacon), they murder him in cold blood. This sets in motion Michael's (who's now a D.A.) plan to expose the rest of the detention center guards and free Billy and Ron. The whole plan relies on the help of their old boss, an aging Mafioso (Vittorio Gassman), some false testimony from their priest (Robert De Niro), and a decent defense by an alcoholic lawyer (Dustin Hoffman).
"Sleepers," it turns out, is the street name for people who spent time in a juvenile facility. This revelation is both ironic and like having a bee fly onto your shirt while riding in a car. Director Barry Levinson undoubtedly thinks himself very clever for giving the audience something to think about, but in reality you're sitting there in your chair trying to brush it off and make it go away.
Levinson's movie is, at its core, an amalgam of other films. To show the boys' great childhood, he culls "boys will be boys" scenes directly from "Porky's." In prison, the boys play football with the guards and eke out some meager satisfaction from their unhappy lives vis-a-vis "The Longest Yard." They hang around Fat Mancho (Frank Medrano), who spews trite life lessons like some Hispanic Yoda in the Hell's Kitchen version of "Star Wars." Then, of course, there's the whole "A Time to Kill" question about the morality of killing people who really deserve it. Barry Levinson didn't need a screenplay for this movie; he needed an editing machine and a good copyright lawyer.
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