Director Barry Levinson‘s adaptation of Lorenzo Carcaterra’s haunting memoir is the cinematic equivalent to a punch in the stomach (or several, rather, and with ever-increasing intensity), even when it occasionally threatens to stumble into sensationalism (like the book before it). A prank goes awry and four Hell’s Kitchen boys are sent to a detention center, where they are forever changed by the physical, psychological and sexual abuse they receive from the guards. Years later, the now-grown boys get their chance for revenge, particularly on the head guard, a sadistic sociopath named Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon, in what might be his first psycho villain role). A well-directed drama that’s not afraid to go to very dark places and stay there a while, even if every now and then you might be inspired to exclaim “Oh, come on!” at all the often seemingly inexplicable brutality. The cast is aces, too, with Brad Pitt, Jason Patrick, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup and the late Brad Renfro all putting in strong work.
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