Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DVD Roundup: Sleepers and That Evening Sun

I went back in my Netflix queue and decided to watch a movie I'd always meant to see and had never gotten around to it.  There's a gap of movies rated R that came out before I was old enough to see them that have mostly slipped by me.  Sleepers was one I got mixed up with Sneakers for a long time and thought I'd already seen it, but now I know I have and that there's a huge difference. 
Sleepers is the story of 4 teenagers from Hell's Kitchen (the west side of Manhattan kind of between Times Square and Lincoln Center) in the 1950s.  They have tough upbringings, abusive/absent parents, lots of Catholic guilt, and actually a good relationship with Father Bobby (Robert DeNiro).  They plan a prank to steal hot dogs, and end up sending the hot dog cart down subway stairs hurting someone.  They're sentenced to a year in a boys juvenile facility, Wilkenson.  The movie is narrated by Jason Patrick, he's one of the boys grown-up, and he tells about the horrors the boys faced at Wilkenson at the hands of Kevin Bacon's guard, Nokes.  They're horribly abused, beaten, and traumatized, but survive. 
Ten years later, two of the boys, now mob hit men (played by Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup) run into an aging Dokes in a bar, and do what they do best - put 5 bullets in him, in front of witnesses.  Patrick is now a newspaper reporter and the last boy, Brad Pitt has grown up to be a district attorney.  They've drifted apart, but Pitt has been planning something like this - he wants to use Eldard and Crudup's trial to expose all the abuse at Wilkenson.  The movie plays out following their trial.  They tap into their roots in Hells Kitchen and the mob boss and his attorneys who are willing to be manipulated to do exactly what Pitt wants to ensure other former guards get called to testify and expose the abuse.  Overall, the acting is pretty terrific by an amazing cast.  The story is difficult to watch at times, and Kevin Bacon is so over the top leering and looking so disgusting, but you hate him as much as the boys do.  Since the story is told through their eyes, there isn't any back story on the other characters, but it makes for great story-telling.  Overall, I'm glad I caught up with this one.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

That Evening Sun is an indie flick starring Hal Holbrook.  From the trailer it seemed to be a movie similar to The Straight Story with Richard Farnsworth about an older man taking back a little control of his life.  That Evening Sun is not as good, either from a cinematic or story perspective.  Holbrook decides he's had enough time in the old-folks home and starts walking back to his farm in Tennessee.  He arrives to find his son has rented the farm to the son of a man he hates.  He fights it for a while, hurling insults at the guy, Choate, to get him to leave.  Since Holbrook is just an old man, Choate (played by "that guy" Ray McKinnon) knows he's harmless and lets him stay in the shed.  Holbrook has designs on getting his home back and attempts to get Choate arrested, which he does when he catches Choate beating his daughter and wife.  The movie overall is uneven and it's hard to really like Holbrook's character.  He has dreams about his deceased wife (played by real-life wife, Dixie Carter, also now deceased) and feels guilt over her death that isn't explained much, but given as the reason he's a mean old coot.  The movie builds to a climax that doesn't deliver and you don't really care about them when it's over.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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