|“||Times are changing. The families can't keep their backs turned while our enemies reap the rewards. So we send someone down to do the dirty work for us and cut ourselves a nice, quiet slice.||”|
–Sonny Forelli, in reply to The Forelli Capo.
Sonny Forelli is the main antagonist and primary character in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. He’s also known as the Don of the Forelli Family and the alleged Vice City Mafia, until 1986, when he met an unfortunate end, leaving his mafia web in turmoil and uncertainty. Sonny Forelli is a pivotal figure in the myth hunting universe and a plinth of numerous Vice City myths. Sonny Forelli was voiced by Tom Sizemore. Sonny's character is inspired by Sonny Corleone from the 1972 film The Godfather.
Tommy Vercetti is the main friend turned rival of Sonny Forelli, as the duo break their long friendship into a fierce battle that eventually kills Sonny Forelli and marking the decline of Forelli Family and Sonny’s terror reign in Liberty City.
History before 1986
Sonny Forelli was born in 1945 to an Italian-American family, the traditional ethnic background for mafia members. Having been born into a prodigious crime syndicate, Sonny was destined to shine through the ranks of the family at a very young age, eventually gaining enough power to take over the family and lead it into a dominating state. At first, Sonny Forelli structured the crime nexus within his hometown, Liberty City, setting up racketeering, labor union conspiracies, and numerous other crimes. One of the most distinguished crimes that were limited to Sonny’s reign, was the barbaric torture of his enemies, and traditional mafia techniques to eliminate nemesis.
Over time, Tommy Vercetti, a local mobster in Liberty City, had developed strong ties with Sonny Forelli, becoming a key member of the family. As time passed, Sonny started to realize that Tommy’s influence may land Sonny in trouble and decided to have Tommy murdered. In 1971, Sonny organized a hit on Tommy by luring him to a deal where eleven men were waiting to ambush him. The plot was unsucessful, as Tommy had managed to kill all of his persuers, which earned him the title the "Harwood Butcher" and a lengthy prison sentence, later commuted due to his family ties. Sonny’s involvement remained unknown to Tommy, who continued to trust Sonny and remained a member of the family.
Sonny is known for his techniques similar to the traditional mafia revenge, known as the Forelli Family Barbarity. The cases of tortures include numerous scenes where men, assumed to have betrayed the family, are seen in compromising situations after their death, such as dumping bodies in the sea with cement shoes. Another technique includes stabbing of a person and then hanging him in the closet. These acts of brutalities have instilled terror among Sonny's rivals.
After taking over Liberty City, Sonny decided to move to Florida and establish a mafia web in Vice City. For this reason, Sonny Forelli created the Vice City Mafia that was slowly gaining power in Vice City with assistance from his cousin, Giorgio Forelli and a local lawyer, Ken Rosenberg. Ken Rosenberg’s involvement was the sole idea of Sonny, while other members resisted his inclusion, but Sonny Forelli was inclined to the idea that setting Ken loose will help them establish their ties with other primary gangs in the city. The involvement began in the year 1984 when Forelli Family sent goons to the city to eliminate Phil Collins for owing Giorgio Forelli money.
During the mission, In The Beginning..., Sonny Forelli is seen discussing the potential of their nexus in Vice City, starting with the involvement in drugs that would fetch them a fortune, while his thought was interrupted by the Forelli Capo, who informed Sonny that the family was traditionally against the drugs trade, whereas Sonny brushed off the risk, citing the profit that ground level gangs in Vice City generate from these drugs despite having a less influence compared to the gigantic Forelli Family nexus.
1986 and the Vice City Mafia
|“||Vice City is twenty-four carat gold these days. The Colombians, the Mexicans. Hell, even those Cuban refugees are cutting themselves a piece of some nice action.||”|
–Sonny Forelli discussing about Vice City.
Soon after the assassination attempt of Phil Collins, Sonny Forelli decided to further his move in Vice City and Ken Rosenberg was set loose for the sole reason to promote the Italian Mafia in Vice City. Ken Rosenberg then set up a drug deal with the Vance Crime Family and Forelli Family, that was to take place in Viceport. However, Sonny saw this was the opportunity to keep Tommy away from Liberty City, due to a belief that Tommy may prove to be fatal for Sonny’s powerful leadership in the City, and expected Tommy to promote the family in Vice City instead. Unfortunately, the deal was interrupted by Ricardo Diaz’ goons with Tommy and Ken nearly escaping death and fleeing to K. Rosenberg & Co.. The incident agitated Sonny, as Sonny demanded his money back from Tommy, who struggles in the city and eventually takes over the city’s crime network by demolishing the Diaz Gang and setting up his network instead along with Lance Vance, Avery Carrington, and Ken Rosenberg. It is assumed that Sonny Forelli had secret contacts with the Vice City Port Authority , Kent Paul, Counterfeiting Syndicate and the Vice City Triads.
|“||Obviously you’re suffering from hearing problems, so I’ll try again….Where’s the goddamned money, where’s the goddamned stuff and where’s my cut off your new action? You are making an idiot out of me and I’m not laughing yet.||”|
–Sonny’s phone call.
During Tommy’s rise to power in the city, Sonny Forelli kept a close eye on Tommy via Lance Vance and other suspected members. Sonny Forelli initially called Tommy to demand his money back during Tommy’s first day in the Ocean Beach Apartment, shortly after the incident at the docks. The second call came right after Tommy intimidates the jury to save Sonny’s cousin, Giorgio Forelli, from imprisonment. The call was to inform Tommy to not forget about his word to the family. The subsequent calls involved desperation from Sonny, who was constantly demanding cuts from Tommy's nascent business in Vice City. Sonny started to realize Tommy was straying from the path of family and established his own strategies. Sonny was then alerted at the fact that Tommy began to ignore him completely and then decided to set foot in Vice City himself.
|“||You still don't get it do you! I own you, Tommy. Those fifteen years were mine to spend! Get him boys, he never understood a thing.||”|
–Sonny during the final confrontation with Tommy.
Sometime during Tommy’s initial reign, Sonny planned to conspire with Lance Vance to work behind Tommy’s back and look for the right time to summon Sonny to Vice City and eliminate Tommy Vercetti. During this time, Sonny frequently calls Tommy, but receives no positive reply whatsoever, forcing Sonny to take aggressive action against Tommy, which started off with death threats to Ken Rosenberg’s family and then went on to the assault of Earnest Kelly at Print Works. Earnest Kelly informed Tommy that the Forelli Family is seeking to collect taxes and the assets from Tommy’s empire. This cemented the fact that Sonny Forelli wanted to battle it out with Tommy. Tommy then eliminated Forelli’s men and openly denounced Sonny Forelli, stating that Vice City is not Sonny’s to rule. Shortly after the attack, Tommy reached the Vercetti Estate and was informed by Ken that his Italian brothers are coming to fit him with cement shoes.
Prior to Sonny’s arrival, Lance Vance becomes agitated on being sidelined and given less credit during his jobs for Tommy, and develops a certain hatred for Tommy to an extent that lead him to betray his partner. Lance was then contacted by Sonny Forelli, teaming up to ambush Tommy in his mansion. Tommy printed fake money for Sonny, but this plan was later ruined and revealed.
Sonny reached the Vercetti Estate along with his men that included his strong right hand man. During Sonny’s conversation with Tommy, Lance showed his true colors and openly betrayed Tommy, and disclosed the original location of the real money, what leads to a battle between both of the sides. Sonny and Lance were eventually eliminated by Tommy, bringing an end to his legacy.
|“||Ever since Sonny Forelli got himself pasted all over Florida, you think you run things in this town.||”|
–Salvatore Leone to Johnny Sindacco.
Soon after Sonny’s death, players began to speculate about the character, forming myths such as Sonny Forelli's Corpse, a myth about Sonny’s dead body and its fate, and another myth involving the ghost of Sonny Forelli that was demonstrated to actually originate from online forums. Sonny Forelli’s death also cemented the downfall of the Forelli Family in both Vice City and Liberty City, giving complete power to the Sindacco crime family by the 1990s. A film dedicated and based on the crime life of Sonny Forelli was also published, named Sonny Forelli: A True Story. A strange observation is noted that the movie poster features members of the Leone Family from GTA San Andreas and not Sonny Forelli.
Sonny Forelli somewhat respected and treasured his relations with his cousins and brothers, namely his brothers; Franco Forelli, Mike Forelli, and Marco Forelli along with their cousin Giorgio Forelli. The Forelli Capo was also revered by Sonny in spite of the fact that he wasn't a direct descendant or brother. In the year 1986, Sonny Forelli was last seen along with his brother, Franco Forelli, who took the throne from both Sonny Forelli and Marco Forelli after their respective deaths between 1986 and 1992, but unfortunately, Franco met the same fate. The leader, Mike Forelli, was then kept in a small time exile until his assassination in 2001 killing all of the Forelli Family Dons except for Giorgio Forelli, who still remains a mystery for the underworld and the authorities. Sonny Forelli held Giorgio in high regard, keeping his cases extremely confidential and limited to Ken Rosenberg, who helped him escape a case in 1986 with some assistance from Tommy Vercetti. Giorgio Forelli remains the sole torch bearer of the Forelli Family.
Inspiration and Sonny Corleone
Sonny Forelli's character was not only named after Sonny Corleone but was also based on the same character. Santino 'Sonny' Corleone, Sr., was the eldest son of Corleone Family, same as the status of Sonny as the firstborn of the Forelli Family. Santino's family was revered for not indulging in drugs and maintaining their standard but Santino preferred to get involved in the coke business to get a fortune. The exact scenario and mindset that Sonny Forelli possessed. Other strikingly similar characteristics included severe temper and agitation, that was common in both Santino and Sonny. Overall, it can be said that Sonny was loosely based on Santino Corleone's crime life, as both met the same end, being assassinated by rivals.