Hypocrisy alert: the Catholic Church is protesting this movie. They object
to Father Bobby lying on the stand to protect the killers. While his is
a dubious form of doing the right thing, it's hard to take seriously the
holy institution that ignored the persecution of Roman Jews under their
Italian noses. Especially when it's having trouble keeping its priests
out of little boys' pants. Anyway....
A star-studded movie like this is so top-heavy, you go primarily just to
watch the actors deliver their lines. Who cares about credibility? It's
acting we're after, and you got a range here - a range as big as the ones
in Hell's Kitchen walk-up tenements.
Now I live in Hell's Kitchen, so I went to this movie to find out about
the history of my neighborhood. I found out: No Republicans are allowed
in Hell's Kitchen; everybody here packs a piece; Hell's Kitchen is where
everybody else dumps their secrets and the locals find'em and keep'em. And
men are men and women are abused. And half the population goes to jail
while the other half puts them there.
Truth to tell, Hell's Kitchen is one of New York's finest neighborhoods
- a district west of Broadway where immigrants stake their first claims
and introduce their families to the dysfunctions of the New World. "Sleepers"
is supposed to be a story of loyalty on the streets. Justice may be blind
uptown, but here in Hell's Kitchen, her eyes are wide open. The narration
tells us all about it - yawn. There is little action in this movie. Everything
is plopped out as a fait-accompli, a done-deal, a wrapped hotdog.
The one hot plot element is in black-and-white sequences of terrorizing
sexual encounters (in keeping with the infamous novel). This rather vile
form of pederasty is visited upon our heroes during their stay in The Wilkinson
Home for Boys, a reformatory. Nothing much gets reformed; they're all warped
for life and for justice. For all the talk about justice, we don't get
to see much of it in action.
The best thing in the movie is Dustin Hoffman's tiny character study of
a drunken defense attorney. The most remarkable thing is that a man with
Barry Levinson's considerable experience could write and direct such a lame
story out of such powerful material. - Karen Jaehne