Carcaterra's best-selling memoir created a stir when it was published in 1995, with skeptics doubting the validity of his story. The same suspicion arose again on the big screen, with the plot just a little bit too tidy and convenient coincidences popping up at every turn. But the superb performances by a handsome cast make credibility a secondary issue. Four adolescent friends living in 1960s Hell's Kitchen are basically good kids, and two of them are even considering the priesthood. But boys will be boys, and a prank involving a hot-dog vendor cart goes wrong, and the boys end up in reform school. At the Wilkinson Home for Boys, the kids are tortured and raped by four guards led by Sean Nokes (Bacon). Years later, two of the boys, John (Eldard) and Tommy (Crudup), now gang leaders in Hell's Kitchen, run into Nokes in a bar and revenge never tasted sweeter. When Lorenzo (Patric), one of the boys who is also still living in the old neighborhood, hears about the murder, he turns to Michael (Pitt), who is now an assistant district attorney, and they plot to get their friends off. De Niro as confidant Father Bobby holds the pivotal role in the film and turns in the most convincing and polished performance. In a smaller, more subtle role, Hoffman as the defendants' barfly lawyer nearly steals the show. Long and predictable, but enjoyable all the same.
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