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Sonny Boy

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    Scyther
    Senior Member

  • Sonny Boy



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 26th, 2016
    Director: Robert Martin Carroll
    Writer: Graeme Whifler
    Cast: David Carradine, Paul Smith, Brad Dourif, Alexandra Powers, Sydney Lassick, Savina Gersak
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie

    Sonny Boy is an ambitious but ultimately flawed film which takes a very serious subject-namely child abduction and abuse-and brings to the table tons of metaphor, allegory and dark humor.

    The script from Graeme Whifler-best known for writing this, Dr. Giggles and directing some music videos-follows a small time, redneck crime gang who accidentally steal a car with a baby in the back seat. Rather than returning the child, the group decide to remove its tongue, keep in captivity and utilize it as a silent accomplice to their violent and criminal lifestyle.

    If all of this sounds super heavy (and it is), you wouldn't know it by the wildly uneven tonal shifts Whifler and director Robert Martin Carroll supervise here, not to mention the hammy and distracting acting from just about everyone in the picture. Seriously, there are some dreadful performances here for what is essentially a disturbing story surrounding equally troubled people. Paul Smith-who was perhaps best known for his roles in Popeye and Red Sonja-is particularly bad as the art-and-junk obsessed gang leader Slue, all exaggerated scowling and cartoonish grumbling as he commits some truly heinous acts.

    Granted, the curio piece of the film might be David Carradine's performance in a dress as Smith's companion Pearl, but once that initial curiosity runs out, Carradine's character essentially takes a backseat for a large part of the film. Additionally, the characters never really acknowledge Pearl as anything other than a woman, which might be due to their fear of reprisal from Slue, or it could be because Carradine's character isn't intended to be a transvestite. It's never really explained, and it's just another point of wonder from the audience's perspective to what is a bizarre and uneven story.

    Anyway, there are some nicely composed and beautiful shots on display here, particularly the scene where Carradine, Smith and co-stars Brad Dourif and Sydney Lassick-who performance is even worse than Smith's-ritualistically remove Sonny Boy's tongue while wearing creepy animal masks. Additionally, it should be said that Michael Griffin puts in a good performance as the adult Sonny Boy, delivering the goods with only his facial expressions and feral movements. The film definitely ramps up the violence and strangeness once Sonny Boy begins embarking alongside Slue on a crime spree, but even the stylish final act doesn't provide enough excitement or bring us close enough to the story to truly succeed.

    The film was produced by the infamous Ovidio G. Assonitis, who was behind some of the most out there Italian horror flicks of the 70s and 80s, including The Visitor, Beyond the Door, and even Piranha 2. This probably explains the presence of foreign talent behind the scenes, which includes cinematographer Roberto D'ettore Piazzoli, composer Carlo Maria Cordio-who foregoes his usual synthesizer in favor of an acoustic, backwoods guitar which is honestly pretty generic and forgettable-as well as the beautiful Yugoslavian actress Savina Gersak.

    There are some moments where Sonny Boy shines, but the film is tedious and dull for the most part, hampered by poor direction, a pretentious script and acting which wildly misses the mark.

    Video/Audio/Extras

    Shout Factory's release of Sonny Boy brings the uncut version of the film to Blu-Ray for the very first time, and it does look excellent. The company's usual strong standard is set in place here, as the print is crisp, with no compression issues, solid skin tones and bright colors. The audio mix is also well balanced between the dialog, soundtrack, and occasional voice-over, while the disc itself also includes English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

    Aside from a trailer, there are two separate commentary tracks here, a solo one with director Robert Martin Carroll and another, moderated discussion with the writer Graeme Whifler. The former is a bit more positive on the experience, concentrating mainly on the visual aspects of the film, while also taking time to watch it alongside the audience, meaning that there are many instances where Carroll just stays silent during important scenes, before commenting on them afterwards.

    Whifler's commentary might be less positive, but more informative, as the writer clearly has some issues with how the finished film differed from his script. He complains and carries on quite a bit during his conversation, and honestly comes across as a bit pompous and self-important, considering the script for Sonny Boy actually isn't particularly stunning in the first place. Both tracks are entertaining for different reasons, however, and serve as a redeeming feature for a film which, sadly, doesn't live up to any initial promise.

    The Final Word

    Sonny Boy could've probably been a dark and disturbing look into some challenging, but rewarding characters. Instead, the film's ambition falls flat, and what we're left with is more regret for what could've been, rather than a picture waiting to be discovered. In this case, maybe some cult classics were better left in the dark.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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