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Teen Movie Critic



Roger Davidson

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Despite the fact that this is one of the most brutal films since Seven, it is also one of the best movies of 1996. Based on the controversial best seller by Lorenzo Carcaterra (and supposedly based on a true story), the movie follows the lives of four friends through two stages of their time together. The first part deals with their time as children at Hell's Kitchen in the 1960's, imparting the expected assortment of childhood pranks. One day, one of their practical jokes goes awry, when they nearly kill a man. Because of this incident, they are sent to a brutal reform school which changes their world forever. Flash forward to 1981! Two of the childhood chums grow up to be big time criminals. They meet up with the guard (Kevin Bacon) who applied brutal torture to them while they were in the reform school. They take out their revenge on Bacon in their typical cold blooded fashion.

Now they are on trial, and the third member of the gang (Brad Pitt) is the prosecutor. However, Pitt has taken the case, because it's all part of a plan for him to lose the case, get his buddies off and condemn the guards that tortured him and the school in which it happened. Helping him out on this interesting crusade is the remaining member and narrator of the story (Jason Patric) and a fatherly priest (Robert De Niro), who will do anything to help out his friends. Even commit perjury! (This part of the story-fabrication is what garnered the most outrage from the Catholic church)!! A truly compelling story with an outstanding cast. Kudos go to De Niro. And Dustin Hoffman as the defendants' alcoholic lawyer is magnificent. They are both quite excellent (I do not hesitate to add as always) and Pitt, Patric and Bacon hold up impressively well next to them. The two great things about this is: a)None of the actors attempt to upstage each other. Hoffman, Pitt and De Niro (always known for their scene-stealing roles) are quite restrained and courteous of the other actors around them. b)The film avoids cliches. This does not resort to the typical prison-courtroom dramatics. The screenwriting is brilliantly fresh and original. Those things alone are worth going to see this for. I think I should also not neglect to mention the great cinematography and the crisp editing job, as well as the great directorial work by Barry Levinson (Rain Man). I'd have to say that this is the best of the fall season...so far.

My Rating = Four Stars

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