It’s 1966 and four boys from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen pull a “prank” that goes horribly wrong, almost killing a man. The judge sentences them to 6 to 18 months in a juvenile detention facility. This is entirely appropriate; the little fuckers need to be taught a lesson, and have time to think about the harm they have caused.
Nothing else that happens to them is appropriate at all. The juvie jail is infested with sadistic guards. The four worst are led by Kevin Bacon, and he singles out the Hell’s Kitchen boys for special treatment. They are beaten, buggered, humiliated, and tortured during their entire stay.
Fifteen years later the boys are grown. Two of them have become thugs and killers. One is a reporter, and the fourth, Brad Pitt, is an assistant D.A. in Manhattan. The bad boys run across Bacon in a restaurant, and blow him away in front of witnesses. Which gives Pitt the opportunity he has been seeking for fifteen years, to get even with the sadists. His plan: take the case and botch the prosecution so badly that his old friends are released, and the bad men exposed. It is a very delicate operation, because he can’t be seen to be throwing the trial, it has to look like he was blindsided by chance.
It is absorbing to see how it all plays out. They hire Dustin Hoffman, a pitiful washed-up alcoholic lawyer, to defend the killers, among many other ploys. The most critical one involves their old street-wise priest and father figure, Father Robert De Niro. To totally sell the idea of their innocence, they need a witness willing to testify that they were somewhere else. Which would compel the priest to swear before God to tell the truth, and then lie …
I liked this a lot. I am not a notably forgiving person. There are some things I can forgive, and a lot more that I can forget, but there are some things that are simply beyond the pale, that I cannot forgive. What these men did to these boys is in that category. Thus, I was a little disappointed that Bacon’s death was so quick and relatively painless. I’d like to have seen him suffer a lot more. And two of the others are still alive after Pitt’s vengeance, but they are ruined. Which is the best you can hope for unless you are willing to walk up and blow them away yourself. And in the end, they are not worth wrecking your life over. Wrecking their lives is vengeance enough.