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The Guy Who Loved and Almost Got Killed to Prove It

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

At the beginning of Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Sonny looked to me as another person who was going to the bank, except for his partner Sal, who looks disturbed; it may be because we knew what he was going to do next and he knew that there wasn't a way back after that point. So it makes me wonder, why would he agree to participate in a bank robbery? Did he realize that he would either go to jail or die? Was he doing that to prove something to himself? Was the money the driving force, or perhaps Sal wanted to prove something to himself, test himself if he dared to make others fear him to have control?

There are many subtexts in Sonny's speech in his first meeting with the public and the police. First, he pulls the crowd to his side, remembering the past massacre of the cops weeks ago. In addition, they put down their guns, moreover giving Sonny power.

After Sonny saw his impact on the community, he thought he could get more, even the impossible, like running from the bank to the airport and taking a plane to wherever he wanted. Plus, he might think that his partner Leon would follow him, and he would see that everything he has done has been for him. To the operation. To make his dream come true.

I can imagine Sonny's frustration after Leon let him down when he needed the most. In addition, the instability of Sal, who looks every time more and more, emerges in fear of going to jail. Sonny knew that Sal would shoot himself at the first sign that anything was wrong or a threat from the police, as he always suspected.

I feel sympathy for Sonny, no matter what pressure he is under. He never treated the hostages badly and never killed them. And when Sal finally gets shot, he knows there are two options now. Either make himself kill by trying to do something or just give up and save his life. He's an interesting character who was smart enough almost to fool the authorities and didn't get shot while trying.

When I saw Sonny being arrested at the film’s end, I wondered if Leon felt sorry for him and if he ever loved him. It will be mysterious to me why Sonny used to say the things that Leo told the police. Why was Sonny so upset with the world? Maybe for his sexual orientation, which was accepted by everyone at the time. But at least I think Sonny never got embarrassed for being who he was. He played, and he lost. He may be the loser, but he played well.

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