Nearly 15 years after the conclusion of one of the most well-known TV shows of all time, The Sopranos, writer David Chase is back with a prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark.
After having watched the entire Sopranos series for the first time during quarantine, I fell in love with the series, from its settled humor to the intense scenes that throw the viewer face-first into the itty-gritty of the mob. This series also opened my mind to fantastic mob movies from the past like The Godfather, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and even Casino. These classics, along with the perfection that was the TV series itself, created high hopes among fans for the film, despite it’s release coming far after the show’s end.
The film shines a spotlight on a story about the challenging life of Dickie Moltisanti, as we follow his rise through the New Jersey mob during the Newark riots in the early 1970’s. With great casting that features actors like Ray Liota and Alessandro Nivola, the film is top-notch from start to finish. My favorite part of the film was the selection of Michael Gandolfini to play a young Tony Soprano. Michael’s father is known for playing Tony during the TV show, and for this to be Gandolfini’s first role was huge not only his career, but in his personal life as well. He certainly would have made his father proud with a fantastic performance of a younger character that his dad is so well known for playing.
After watching the two-hour film that was released exclusively in theaters and HBO Max, I felt as if the movie could have continued for at least another hour. The conclusion left me with many questions about the characters and a thirst for more content. It almost feels like the story would have been told better as a miniseries, if only because there are simply too many characters introduced and very little time to understand them. The audience is left waiting for answers but the film moves on at a fast pace, leaving much to the imagination.
Regardless of my own qualms with the movie, there is no arguing that the casting is solid. With references and quotes directly from the show, it can fulfill the average fan for two hours, but in the end it just feels like a two-hour special flashback episode of the show. I do wish that there had been more of Michael Gandolfini, as he is only in the film for about an hour, and he was one of the most enjoyable characters. With a solid cast and predictable plot, you can get invested in this 70’s Newark world, but the film ends with the viewer wanting more, whether you’ve seen the original series or not. Overall, I am excited to see where Michael Gandolfini’s acting career goes as he is my highlight from this film that for me, did not live up to the hype.
I give The Many Saints of Newark a 7 out of 10