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 stars Kevin Bacon, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Vittorio Gassman.
Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra, Tommy Marcano, Michael Sullivan, and John Reilly are childhood friends in Hell's Kitchen 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, they accidentally injure a man while pulling a prank on a hot dog vendor. The boys are sentenced to the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York; Tommy, Michael, and John are 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 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.
By the spring of 1968, shortly before Shakes' release from Wilkinson, he insists that they should publicly report the abuse, but the others refuse, knowing that no one would believe them. They all therefore vow never to speak of the abuse the guards put them through once they are all out.
Thirteen 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 a newspaper reporter, forge a plan to free John and Tommy and get revenge on the guards who abused them. With the help of others, including their childhood friend Carol and King Benny, they carry out their revenge using information compiled by Michael on the background of the former Wilkinson guards. They also hire Danny Snyder, a washed-up lawyer, to defend John and Tommy.
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 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, 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 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. Shakes remains a newspaper 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; both die before age 30. Carol stays in the city as a social worker and has a son, whom she names after the four boys.
- Kevin Bacon as Sean Nokes
- Billy Crudup as Tommy
- Robert De Niro as Father Bobby
- Ron Eldard as John
- Minnie Driver as Carol
- Vittorio Gassman as King Benny
- Dustin Hoffman as Danny Snyder
- Terry Kinney as Ferguson
- Bruno Kirby as Shakes' father
- Jason Patric as Shakes
- Joseph Perrino as Young Shakes
- Brad Pitt as Michael
- Brad Renfro as Young Michael
- Geoffrey Wigdor as Young John
- Jonathan Tucker as Young Tommy
- Eugene Byrd as Rizzo
- Jeffrey Donovan as Addison
- Sleepers at Box Office Mojo
- Sleepers at Rotten Tomatoes
- Sleepers at Metacritic
- Synopsis at director Barry Levinson's website