Thursday, July 16, 2009
My Favorite Scene: Sleepers
Sleepers, Barry Levinson’s criminally underrated film, is the best movie I have ever seen that chronicles the after effects of victimization. The plot, briefly, is the true story about four Hell’s Kitchen teens who pull a childish prank that goes very wrong, nearly killing an innocent man. The boys are sent up for a year to a juvenile home for boys where they are subjected to random, yet frequent, physical and sexual attacks by four guards.
Flash forward 15 years. Two of the boys have grown up to become gang leaders who abuse drugs and murder at random or for money. Those two bump into the head guard (Kevin Bacon, in his best screen role) from way back and blow his brains out. Another boy, Michael (Brad Pitt), has grown into a lawyer and takes the case against his two friends. Why? To get them off. All of this is narrated, rather marvelously, by Jason Patric, the last of the four boys.
This film is full of lasting scenes. The two minute, unbroken shot of Robert De Niro (a loyal priest to his neighborhood boys) as he listens to Patric describe the horror they endured at the juvenile home, comes to mind. But the shining moment of the film is its last one.
As the four friends, along with their pal Carol (Minnie Driver), sit around a table in a private room of a New York restaurant, Patric, via narration, briefly goes through the fates of each man. The two killers, he says, died gruesome deaths only years later, never leaving their life of crime, even after receiving a shot at redemption. Patric says of himself that he was promoted at his newspaper job, covering the entertainment beat, but the haunting realism is found in Michael’s description.
People subjected to abuse can go several ways. That’s what makes Sleepers such a fascinating story. The boys all experience the same crimes, yet they all deal with them differently. Whether it was to express themselves physically with violence. Or to bury the pain down as deep as it can go, almost denying it ever happened, or to continue life elsewhere, away from everyone you know, quietly and alone. It’s only one line of dialogue, but that line has stayed with me over a decade after having first watched the film.
Please, if you’ve never seen Sleepers, find it. Rent it, put it in your Netflix queue, or buy it off Amazon for $7.99. Either way, you won’t be sorry, and who knows, you may even discover something about yourself.