Years, Nicolas Cage expressed interest in starring in John Carlen's (Lethal Vows, Sworn to Vengeance) screenplay about an ex-gigolo trying to turn legitimate. Years passed and the project never materialized, until Cage (Adaptation, Windtalkers), now well established in his career, decided to return to the script and direct it. The strangest element is that he would choose to direct such a lifeless and mundane script, with very few original ideas within it. Sonny is the same tired story about how hard it is to be a prostitute (albeit this time, it's a male prostitute). It has about as much life as Dancing at the Blue Iguana, a similar movie that focused on female strippers. Sonny (James Franco, City by the Sea, Spider-Man) is fresh out of a stint in the army, and returns home with hope of going straight. His mother Jewel (Brenda Blethyn, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Pumpkin) raised him as a prostitute in a run-down house of ill repute in an old corner of New Orleans.

Jewel expects Sonny to pick up right where he left off. She boasts that he is very popular with women, and that she taught him everything he knows. Currently, Jewel only has one woman, Carol (Mena Suvari, The Musketeer, American Pie 2). Like Sonny, Carol wants to leave the business. She is a little smarter, and realizes that it's like a vicious cycle, and unless one of them makes an active move to leave, they will be stuck there forever. Despite all his attempts to find a legitimate job, Sonny keeps falling back into old habits. Jewel's longtime client Henry (Harry Dean Stanton, The Pledge, The Man Who Cried) also wants Sonny to find a new life.

Part of what makes Sonny so mundane is how used everything feels. There is the obligatory subplot about Sonny looking for his father. Jewel says he ran off and won't reveal the identity, but by the midway point of the film it is blatantly obvious to everybody. Another seemingly required subplot is for Sonny and Carol to fall in love. Together, they can plan for some sort of future, until the present intrudes on their plans. Yawn. Cage also relies on some blatantly obvious plot tricks to move the story along, so things that are supposed to be "surprises" don't surprise anybody. The worst example of this is near then end when Stanton is playing cards. The look of the film is nice and seedy, but that's the best thing one can say about it.

Cage has a reputation for freaking out in some of his roles. Everything seems normal, then he will explode for no reasonable reason. He has a small role here and remains true to form, but also has Franco do a random freak out near the end of Sonny. Franco is a charismatic actor who would seem ideal for such a tortured role, but the screenplay abuts on the atrocious so often that listening to the words that come out of his mouth almost seems humorous. Worst off is Blethyn, who does nothing but screech. Not an auspicious directing debut for Cage, who is surely capable of better.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated R for strong sexuality, language, some drug use, and violence.

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