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The Many Saints of Newark - Movie Review

The Many Saints of Newark

If we are to believe the film’s promotional materials, namely its poster which asks “Who Made Tony Soprano,” then The Many Saints of Newark is an origin story for the fictional gangster played by James Gandolfini in David Chase’s groundbreaking, award-winning HBO drama series The Sopranos (1999-2007). While the film does answer the question, Tony Soprano is really just a peripheral character in a much larger tale of organized crime and mob culture in New Jersey’s largest city.

"some of the most mundane conversations always find a way to end up with weapons drawn and plates of spaghetti thrown against the walls"


 

In a brilliant stroke of genius, he is played in his teenage years by James Gandolfini’s son Michael, the spitting image of his late father. That he isn’t the focus of this film certainly doesn’t disappoint and even provides a much-welcomed “stepping out” of sorts from beneath the hulking shadow of the TV series as it deals with the period in Newark history before Tony’s involvement in organized crime. As a result, the film works as a solid standalone piece. In fact, it might even make the most sense for Sopranos newbies contemplating a first-time binge to begin their journey here.

We meet young Anthony Soprano (played as an adolescent by William Ludwig) who is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history. The “Long Hot Summer of 1967” sees the city being swept up in four days of rioting, looting, and property destruction. He is becoming a man as the city’s gangsters rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s stranglehold on the rife-stricken city.

Emerging from the commotion is the uncle Tony idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities - Sopranos veterans will appreciate the nod. Uncle Dickie’s sway and influence over his nephew becomes the block from which the impressionable young teenager will be forged into the powerful mob boss we later come to know.

As this gripping drama plays out, we’re (re)introduced to that lovable, colorful cast of characters we met in the TV series – show regulars like Uncle Junior (Corey Stoll), Tony’s father “Johnny Boy” Soprano (Jon Bernthal), mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) and sister Janice (Alexandra Intrator), as well as soldiers Silvio (John Magaro), Paulie Walnuts (Bill Magnusson), and Big Pussy (Samson Moeakiola).The Many Saints of Newark

We also see some new faces in mafia made-man and Dickie’s father “Hollywood Dick” Moltisani (Ray Liotta) who brings young nubile bride Giuseppina Moltisanti (Michela De Rossi) back from the Old Country. Your mental calculator will stay busy computing ages and confirming timelines as they relate to the original series, and for the most part it all works out. And that’s a big part of the fun that comes from watching this thing play out. It’s like a long-awaited reunion of dear family and old friends.

Hats off to director Alan Young who won an Emmy for his directing work on some of the TV episodes. Here he makes the film his own by taking the story to a completely new place while simultaneously nailing the familiar dark and sardonic tone of Chase’s original. It’s equal parts humor, danger, atonement and redemption.

As for that familiar Sopranos trademarked violence, it’s all there. The film is very deserving of its R rating with lots of blood, scores of kill shots, and of course plenty of coercive torture scenes, especially in one that features a pneumatic lug wrench in a way you’ve never seen on film. I promise.

Another highlight is the dialogue from Chase and Lawrence Konner’s ferocious script which always feels authentic and loyal as delivered by the skilled cast deploying their every-other-word-pluralizing Italian-American accents. We’re rarely ever allowed a moment to catch our collective breath, as even some of the most mundane conversations always find a way to end up with weapons drawn and plates of spaghetti thrown against the walls. Welcome back old friend!

4/5 stars

Film Details

The Many Saints of Newark

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity.
Runtime:
120 mins
Director
: Alan Taylor
Writer:
Lawrence Konner
Cast:
Alessandro Nivola; Leslie Odom Jr.; Jon Bernthal
Genre
: Crime | Drama
Tagline:
Who made Tony Soprano.
Memorable Movie Quote: "As far as your nephew goes... Stay out of his life!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner bros
Official Site: https://www.themanysaintsofnewarkmovie.com/
Release Date:
October 1, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A look at the formative years of New Jersey gangster Tony Soprano.

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