Sleepers (1996) with Robert de Niro essay sample

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Today, most people wonder why certain people do the things they do, especially the evil acts. Sleepers, a 1996 legal drama movie, which was written, produced and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on the Lorenzo Carcaterra’s novel of the same name, tries to bring out revenge and redemption and shows how the two are linked.

The easy traces the history and describes the character behaviors of John Reilly, one of the actors, and shows how he came to be associated with criminality. It also links his traits with learning behavioral theory and describes how the link can be connected with a public policy. The movie starts by introducing to us four inseparable friends: Lorenzo, John, Michael, and Tommy.

Like most boys, the four enjoy playing stickball, are curious about sex and have an appetite for pranks (15:00). They attempted to steal a hot dog (23:00). This went horrible, and their lives changed completely. This theft nearly caused a man’s death. For this reason, John and his companions were found guilty of reckless endangerment. They were sent to the Wilkinson Reform School (31:20). Here, they were under the watchful eye of a guard named Sean Nokes. The boys subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.From this film, it is clear that John is revengeful. Together with Tommy, he killed Nokes by shooting him six times in front of four witnesses (1:07:22). John is also dishonest. He denies having killed Nokes. “There is no connection with the guns and us…” (1:19:44).

He conspired with Michael and others to deny before a trial the fact that he committed the murder. Social learning theoryThe theory is also known as social cognitive theory. According to this theory, the person, environment, and behavioral elements determine behavioral change. An individual’s environment affects his or her responses from the social environment. This theory focuses on the reciprocal interactions between the environment and an individual’s behavior.

The revenge and dishonesty exhibited by John are a result of brutality that he, together with his for friends, received while in the juvenile. His personality was altered by the brutality he experienced while in the juvenile. Though he was a criminal, he learned more of it through the experience (Akers, 2009). Correction of deviant behaviors entails behavioral change. The understanding of behavioral change is crucial in facilitating the adoption of effective correctional methods in policy-making.

For example, brutality in the behavior correction centers hardens criminals. With such an understanding, policy-makers are guided in formulating policies that protect, say, inmates in a jail (Kelly & Clarke, 2008).In conclusion, the environment is a key player in designing an individual’s behavior. People learn from the environment, and thereafter develop their behaviors. The brutality that John received was reinforcement to his criminality.


Akers, R. L. (2009). Social learning and social structure: A general theory of crime and deviance. New Brunswick [N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

Kelly, D. H., & Clarke, E. …

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