Sleepers Review and Blu-ray Features
18 Oct 1996
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Kevin Bacon on his role in Sleepers
(On Sleepers) He (Barry Levinson) tracked me down in Canada when I was making Losing Chase, and sent me a note which said, ‘I think you could put an interesting spin on this character.’ For an actor, that’s like the greatest thing you can hear from a director. There’s a difference between saying that and saying. ‘Hey, I’ve got this part, I think I can show you how to play it,’ or ‘Hey, I’ve got this part, you’re just like this guy,’ whatever the *beep* that means. But when a director says, ‘I want to see what it is that you’re going to bring to the table,’ that’s the best possible work environment. Barry creates an environment that makes you want to explore. When I took Sleepers, I thought to myself, this is going to be a really heavy, horrible experience, because I gotta do all this bad stuff to little boys. It’s the story of four friends from Hell’s Kitchen who get sent to a juvenile home, and I play the guy who tortures and abuses them. He’s the head baddie. A sadist, a pedophile, an extremely bad person…I kind of pride myself on trying to discover some kind of humanity in the darkest of characters, and I think usually I’m pretty successful. I don’t know if I was in this case. I mean, I didn’t play him with drool coming down his chin; I tried to play him real, but he’s pretty dark. The funny part was that I thought I’d have to stay away from the kids between takes, to stay in character and not relate to them in a very human way. That’s not the way it turned out at all. It was one of the best times I ever had making a movie. It was a gas to be with these kids. We’d sit around and carry on, tell jokes and stories, and then the camera would roll and-boom!-I’d be beating them and doing all these things to them. Very strange.
question about ralph fuergeson
Brad Pitt is his lawyer, wouldn’t he recognize him as one of the kids he abused?
Brad Pitt isn’t his lawyer he’s an ADA, except for prep work he would have had very limited dealings with RF. Secondly Nokes himself couldn’t figure out who John and Tommy were even after giving him some time to think about it even though they seemed to be his pet peeves and thirdly Ferguson probably abused lots of kids all of whom he figured weren’t worthy of remembering, as Tommy says to Nokes ‘I can see how you might forget. We were just something for you and your friends to play with…you gave us so much more to remember you by’. Of course he didn’t remember Pitt’s character
What exactly are those ‘football ticket stubbs’ that the father shows?
Ticket “STUBBS” are simply just the tickets. when you enter an event (whether it be the football or a movie) with a ticket, they are torn by the usher and the left over ticket that you’re handed back is the Stubb.
Why admit the truth
Why did the one guard just confess his sins in public? I would think that he’d just deny everything the lawyer questioned him on.
Some people actually take that “under oath” business seriously
And he seemed to do it having suffered an emotional breakdown, like it was something he had been carrying too long and once confronted just couldn’t keep it in any more.
Sure, the guy can grow a conscience all of a sudden and confess, that is believable I guess. But, their whole plan depended on him reacting exactly like that.
Based on true story
Author Lorenzo Caricature has claimed that his book on which the film is based was a true story of his childhood. When the New York legal community went on record stating that no cases resembling the events of his book could be found in any court records, Carcaterra refused to discuss the discrepancy. His claims have been neither proven nor disproven
Sleepers – A Really Great Film !!!
The story line, whether or not it is an historical fact, is very plausible, compelling, engaging & just downright interesting & kept me glued to the screen until the end. The acting by the whole cast was really superior & believable. The cinematography was great. The music was appropriate & well chosen. The direction was right on target.
RT/Meta Critic Review
If audiences aren’t bothered by this disturbing subtext, there’s a lot to enjoy in this impeccably structured, handsomely produced saga. (Click here to see)
Views the gray tones of good and evil and what lengths people are willing to go through to re-claim the dignity they lost as children. (Click here to see)
Colorful characters, richly evoked settings, epic story of friendship, crime and punishment, and a strong dose of good old-fashioned star power.(Click here to see)
Sleepers was released on a so-called “flipper” DVD in 1997, which means that it was split between two sides of a double-sided disc, because back then the industry hadn’t yet perfected double-layer DVDs. This Blu-ray is the first reissue of the film in region 1; so it’s hardly surprising that the image is an upgrade in every respect. Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus created several different styles for Sleepers. In the 1960s sequences, images tend to be more brightly lit and the pallette is dominated by cheerier colors, with frequent pastels. As soon as the film reaches Wilkinson, the pallette becomes muted, at times almost to the point of monochromatic; some scenes are genuine black-and-white, as are flashbacks later in the film. The 1981 portion of the film uses darker, richer tones, and not just because so many scenes occur at night or in indoor locations with dark decor, whether it’s a courtroom, King Benny’s bar or Little Caesar’s office. The darkness of the 1981 sequences is thematic, with plots, secrets and skulduggery all around.
The Blu-ray’s 1080p, AVC-encoded image handles these carefully orchestrated color shifts effectively and accurately. Detail is excellent, as is apparent in, e.g., the fine appearance of clothing patterns and the elaborate period decor on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, as well as the crowded furnishings in residences like Carol’s apartment. Black levels are very good, which is essential for scenes like the clandestine meeting between Shakes and Michael just after Michael has gotten himself appointed to try the Nokes murder. They meet late at night and step in and out of shadows, but you can always make out the details of their expressions.
I have read suggestions that DNR was applied to this transfer, but I did not observe any motion artifacts, loss of fine detail or waxy complexions that are the trademarks of such digital filtering. The Blu-ray is remarkably free from any visible grain, but Sleepers has always had a notably smooth and grainless texture, despite the fact that it wasn’t completed on a digital intermediate (and notwithstanding the categorical declarations of those who declare that Super35 photography is always, always grainy).
Though it is a dialogue-driven film, Sleepers includes a number of sequences where sounds other than speech are used for effective storytelling, and the DTS lossless track reproduces these forcefully. One example is a touch football game that becomes something more; the game is intercut with scenes from its aftermath and acquires tremendous impact from the contrast between the expansive roar of the players and onlookers in all five speakers with the quiet scenes featuring a single individual afterward. Scenes in subways, especially a meeting between Carol and Michael, use the entire soundfield, including the subwoofer, to convey the New York MTA’s full sonic assault. A particularly interesting use of sound occurs late in the film, when gunfire is shown but not heard, because it’s being drowned out by a plane taking off, the sound of which is conveyed at full volume through the entire system. In short, even though Sleepers may not become your latest “demo” disc, you won’t regret having your system well-balanced and adjusted.
Even if there were nothing else, the soundtrack of Sleepers would merit the best playback system possible for John Williams’ excellent score, which is notable because it demonstrates the great composer’s range. Meditative, worldly, almost (but not quite) mournful, Williams hits exactly the right bittersweet note for this tale oddly balanced between triumph and tragedy. It was the film’s only Oscar nomination and well-deserved.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD; 1.33:1; 2:16). It’s an effective trailer, but it does reinforce the impression that the parts played by the film’s “name” stars are much bigger than they really are.