Scene 1: The neighborhood
1. What makes this neighborhood distinct? In what ways is it "a
world unto itself," as Colagero describes it? What does Colagero
remember when he thinks back to the beginning of the story?
2. In what ways does life occur on the streets or in public in
the neighborhood that would not be the case in other urban areas.
How does the film use public scenes to enhance the idea of the neighborhood?
3. What does Colagero's interest in Sonny suggest about him? Are
his other friends as fascinated by Sonny and his role in the neighborhood?
Scene 2: The Line-up
1. Why doesn't Colagero identify Sonny as the shooter?
2. While others may not have identified Sonny for fear of retaliation,
Colagero understands his own silence as the fulfillment of a moral
principal: loyalty, or how he expresses it, "don't rat."
Has Colagero done the right thing by keeping silent? Why?
3. Considering what we learn in this scene, is loyalty opposed
4. What place do you think self-preservation played in Colagero's
5. What does Lorenzo mean when he tells Colagero that he did a
good thing for a bad man? Did Colagero do a good thing? Is Sonny
a bad man?
6. There is a contradiction in Lorenzo's words that confuses his
son. He says both, "sometimes you gotta do certain things you
gotta do even though they're not right," and "you did
the right thing." Can you explain this contradiction?
7. Does Lorenzo approve of his son's silence because he is afraid
of Sonny? Is there another explanation?
8. What does Lorenzo tell his son before he hugs him? What does
it show about their relationship that their discussion ends this
Scene 3: The confessional
1. How does the confessional scene indicate Colagero's acceptance
of responsibility for his actions?
2. Note the irony of Colagero's thinking of the Fifth Amendment
while confessing. How does the overlap in the meanings of "the
fifth" suggest a tension between religion and politics?
3. Why does the priest accept Colagero's statement that "my
guy is bigger down here"? What view of religion emerges in
this scene? Does the priest's tolerance suggest that religion leave
is powerless to combat evil in this world, or that God leaves room
for human beings to exercise responsibility? That is, how does the
overlap in the meanings of "the fifth" suggest a compatibility
between religion and politics?
4. Does Colagero really "start over"? Why does he continue
to hang around Sonny?
Scene 4: Bad money
1. What is the significance of Lorenzo's objection to what Colagero
sees, versus what Sonny says? What might be the greater influence,
and why? Might this distinction have any bearing on our viewing
of the film?
2. Lorenzo claims to Sonny that he would "never step out of
line." What he is condoning?
3. Does Sonny understand Lorenzo's distinction between his control
in the neighborhood and his "fooling with a man's family? Does
he abide by it? Is he better or worse for not doing so?
4. Colagero believes that since he earned his money, he ought to
be allowed to keep it. Is his father right to give the money back
5. Who is the tough guy in this scene? Is the working man a sucker?
6. Who is more courageous, Lorenzo or Sonny? Is that a different
question than the question who is tougher?
7. Lorenzo believes the tough guy "get[s] up every morning
and work[s] for a living." Is this an adequate definition of
strength of character?
8. How do you think Sonny would define courage?
9. What is the difference Lorenzo suggests between being loved
and being feared? Which is preferable and why?
10. Sonny's men offer to beat Lorenzo up, and Sonny tells them
to leave him alone. Why does he do so? Is it simply for Colagero's
sake? What would Colagero think if Sonny's men beat up his father?
11. What is your impression of Sonny after this scene? Has it changed?
Do you believe Sonny treats Colagero, "like [his] son,"
as he says?
12. Do you think that Lorenzo or Sonny is the more courageous man?
Why? In what ways is each of them courageous?
Scene 5: Collecting debts and reading Machiavelli
1. Sonny says at the beginning of this scene that he needs to stop
babying Colagero. What does he mean? How does he do that in the
course of these few scenes?
2. Colagero asks Sonny if he should "crack [Louie Dumps] one,
or what?" Sonny's men advise just that. Why does Sonny give
different advice? Sonny says "sometimes hurting someone ain't
the answer." Does his advice show concern for Louie? Does it
demonstrate weakness or strength?
3. Is Sonny's advice to Colagero to forget about the wrong from
Louie rather than "cracking him one" consistent with his
threat to slap Lorenzo in the previous scene that we saw?
4. Incarceration is looked at by society as a chance to rehabilitate
criminals. Do you think that Sonny was changed by his prison reading?
Was he rehabilitated? Do you think Sonny spent his time well?
5. Sonny advises Colagero to "worry" about himself,
his family, people that are important. Who is important to Sonny?
Does he worry about anyone? Does he worry about the neighborhood?
Does his own life and actions follow his advice about the importance
6. Sonny suggests that friendships that are bought with money are
short-lived. Is there another type of friendship that Sonny doesn't
7. Is Sonny's advice to Colagero about what is important consistent
with the lessons he learned from Machiavelli about fear and love?
Scene 6: Availability up close
1. How does Sonny in his treatment of the motorcyclists demonstrate
restraint and calculation about what is necessary?
2. At what act of the motorcyclists does Sonny draw the line?
3. How does the bar room fight demonstrate the teaching Sonny offered
Colagero in Gino's restaurant?
4. What is the effect of the scene's moving from the Chez Bippy
(behind closed doors) into the street? Why does Sonny want to be
remembered by the motorcyclists?
5. Why does the film include Sonny's running out in the end with
a bat in order to beat the already beaten motorcyclists?
6. Does your opinion of Machiavelli's/Sonny's teaching change when
you see the beating Sonny and his men give to the motorcyclists?
7. Later in the film (1:19:13 ff.), blacks ride their bikes through
the neighborhood, and Colagero's "friends" beat them up.
Are they trying to imitate Sonny? Are they? Contrast their treatment
of the blacks with Sonny's treatment of the motorcyclists.
Scene 7: Dating Jane
1. Does Sonny's description of "the three great ones"
constitute good advice for Colagero? How does Lorenzo react to the
idea of "three great ones"? Contrast Sonny's and Lorenzo's
attitudes toward women.
2. Contrast Sonny's and Lorenzo's advice about dating Jane. Which
does the film present as superior? What would C's friends say, in
contrast to what Sonny and Lorenzo say?
3. Is Sonny's freedom from prejudices connected with other aspects
of his character?
4. What are the different ways in which Colagero approaches Sonny
and his father in order to get advice?
5. What does his seeking advice indicate about Colagero?
Scene 8: Wasted talent
1. When Lorenzo asks C, "what makes you think you're so special?",
Colagero responds by saying, "You don't know Sonny." What
does this say about Colagero's understanding of Sonny?
2. Is Sonny feared or respected, or both? Explain your answer.
3. Lorenzo speaks about being proud of what he does and of not
"having to answer" to anyone. What does he mean?
4. Colagero says in the first of these scenes that Sonny trusts
him. The second scene demonstrates that this is not true, that Lorenzo
was right - Sonny can't trust anyone. Are you as surprised as Colagero
is by Sonny's reaction?
5. Colagero tells Sonny that he has been like a father to him.
From what you've seen of Colagero and Sonny, what do you think of
this characterization of Sonny's treatment of Colagero? Did Sonny
handle this situation properly? Why or why not?
6. When Colagero tells Sonny, "that's a horrible way to live,"
Sonny responds, saying that it is the only way for him. Is Sonny's
life a horrible one? Has Colagero learned what Lorenzo was trying
to teach him, or what Sonny was trying to teach him? Both? How do
the "teachings" of these two father-figures in Colagero's
life differ with respect to their hopes for Colagero?
7. Colagero is especially impressed by what his father says to
Sonny: I never hated you. He repeats this to Sonny. Why is it important
to Colagero that his father not hate Sonny?
8. When Colagero says wasted talent as he touches Sonny's forehead,
is he saying that Sonny was not correct in his own self-assessment?
- that there may have been another way to live for him, as Colagero
suggests he will live?
9. Why does Lorenzo call his son C for the first time in the film?
1. Why does Machiavelli become part of this movie? If Sonny is
a Machiavellian, does this lower him in our sights, or elevate him?
How does his Machiavellianism affect our view of Sonny?
2. Machiavelli is known as the teacher of evil; but is Sonny a
teacher of evil?
3. To what extent is this film a criticism of Machiavellian politics?
To what extent does it share Socrates' concern for the good of one's
4. Socrates and Sonny are both imitated by the young in their communities.
In what ways is their example beneficial or harmful to the young?
5. Contrast Socrates' killer (the city of Athens) with Sonny's assassin.
What risks do each of these men incur by the different lives they
choose to lead?