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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 141 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 0 Director Barry Levinson

Starring Kevin Bacon
Robert De Niro
Dustin Hoffman
Bruno Kirby
Jason Patric
Brad Pitt
Brad Renfro
Minnie Driver
RRP $34.95 Music John Williams

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1    
Macrovision ?    
Subtitles English
English Hard of Hearing
German Hard of Hearing

Plot Synopsis

    Sleepers is a very powerful and disturbing movie. It chronicles the life of four boys growing up in "Hell's Kitchen", New York in the 1960s. It is told through the eyes of one of the boys, "Shakes" (Joe Perrino). Hell's Kitchen was a very rough place to grow up. However, a strict code of honour existed, and crimes against the person were not tolerated. A central character in this human drama was the parish priest, Father Bobby (Robert De Niro), a no-nonsense rough-and-ready representative of God.

    The four boys - Shakes, Michael , John and Thomas - are inseparable, and they all get up to the usual adolescent hijinks, until one day something goes horribly wrong and they find themselves sentenced to incarceration at the Wilkinson Home for Boys. The Home is a brutal place, with physical, mental and sexual abuse almost a matter of routine, particularly by a foursome of guards headed by Nokes (Kevin Bacon).

    Their time passes, and the four are released. They grow up, but their lives are forever damaged. One day, the adult John and Thomas happen across Nokes in a bar, a seemingly perfect setup for revenge.

    Sleepers will disturb you. The imagery is often very graphic, and the subject matter is unpleasant. The movie takes a no nonsense and no glamour approach to its subject matter. The acting is absolutely top notch, and a superb ensemble cast make this story all the more dramatic and tragic.

Transfer Quality

    Before I begin describing the video quality, I feel it is necessary to point that that my review is of a pre-release disc. This disc had some specific problems with glitches in several places which I believe are the result of a faulty disc rather than a general mastering fault.


    The video transfer of this movie is generally acceptable, but below the standard I would have expected for a movie of this vintage. I note that this movie was shot using the Super 35 process, which may account for the slightly lesser quality.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Also present on the other side of the disc is the Full Frame version of this movie. I watched the widescreen version of the movie. Note that the theatrical aspect ratio of this movie was 2.35:1. This version has had the bottom of the frame opened up a little. No information has been lost to the sides of the frame. As always, the correct theatrical aspect ratio would have been preferred.

    The transfer was generally sharp and clear, but not at all as sharp as some other transfers that I have seen. Shadow detail was generally good. Film grain was noticeable at a number of points throughout the transfer.

    The colours were well-rendered.

    There were four spots on this disc where there were major MPEG artefacts, consisting of picture and sound breakup. These were at 124:41-124:46, 134:02-134:03, 134:41-134:44, and 135:20-135:24. These are not present on the Full Frame side of the disc, and Polygram inform me that these are not present on other copies of this DVD, so I presume that I have a slightly damaged copy of this DVD. When I can personally confirm that this is the case, I will amend this review accordingly. Please note that I have rating this movie's video and audio quality on the basis that the artefacts as detailed above are not present on production copies of this disc.
[Addendum 25th July 1999: A replacement copy of Sleepers did not have the same problems. However, several people have reported this same problem on their copy of Sleepers, all corrected by replacing their copy with another. I conclude that there must be a few slightly out-of-spec discs out there.]

    Film-to-video artefacts were somewhat problematic with this transfer, and consisted of significant amounts of aliasing. The usual culprits were responsible; car grilles, brick walls, and the sharp edge of stairways. The courtroom scenes are particularly notable for this artefact.

    Film artefacts were present in greater numbers than I would expect from a transfer of this age, but were borderline acceptable.

    I took the opportunity to compare the R1 version of this disc with the R4 version. It is interesting to note that Warner Brothers released this disc in the US, and Polygram have released it elsewhere in the world. The first thing to strike me is the fact that the R1 version has been released in the correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. The second thing to strike me is that the R1 version is a flipper. The third thing to strike me about the two discs is that the R4 version has significantly higher resolution than the R1 with the same artefacts in the same places. Fitting this movie onto a single side clearly has not significantly degraded the quality of the image.


    There are two audio tracks to choose from on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 5.1. This is the track that I listened to. The other track present is a German soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue was always very clear and easy to understood. This is critically important to a movie of this style. There were no audio sync problems.

    The music (by John Williams) added an excellent foreboding feel to the movie, and enhanced the overall experience significantly.

     The surround channels were moderately used for music and for ambience. This created a reasonably enveloping soundtrack given the type of move that this was.

    The .1 channel was used to support the music. It was not required to work all that hard.


    There are no extras on this disc. The R1 version has a basic set of extras; Cast & Crew Biographies, Production Notes and the Theatrical Trailer, but is widescreen only, and is a flipper.


    The menu design on the disc is simple and easy to navigate. A minor annoyance is that the "play movie" option is not the default selection. The menu on the 16:9 side of the disc is 16x9 enhanced, whereas the menu on the 4:3 side of the disc is not, making both menus appear in the correct proportions.


    Sleepers is a stunning, shocking and thought-provoking movie. Assuming that no glitches exist on the release copies, this is highly recommended, especially given that it is not a flipper as is the R1 version.

    The video quality is acceptable, with significant artefacts, but the R1 has the same artefacts.

    The audio quality is of good quality and is pleasingly enveloping.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
27th January 1999
Amended 25th July 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer