In 1999, David Chase would introduce the world to Anthony “Tony” Soprano (James Gandolfini) with his show The Sopranos. The show focused on the Italian mob boss and his family that consisted of Carmela (Edie Falco), Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), and Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler). Now, twenty-two years later, Chase is back giving us more Sopranos content. The Many Saints of Newark is a tale that focuses on a young Tony (Michael Gandolfini) and his favorite uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola).
The film takes place in Newark, New Jersey during the Vietnam War. The plot is focused on a story Tony tells his nephew Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) about his father during the show. Now, how true this story remains to be seen until you finish the movie. Christopher is the narrator of the film, and his voice guides you through each chapter. This is very different compared to the show, as there is no narration. The film contains plenty of fan service that should make any Sopranos fan happy.
Alan Taylor – who directed several episodes of The Sopranos – helms The Many Saints of Newark, with Chase providing the script along with Lawrence Konner. The film is basically a two-hour episode that suffers a bit from how short it is. Chase and Konner do a good job with most of the plot, but it is a bit jumbled. The pacing would have benefitted from a longer cut. Editor Christopher Tellefsen tries to make it all work as best as he can in this two-hour window. The film doesn’t ever really fall flat, but at times it feels like it’s on the verge. Taylor’s direction helps keep things afloat along with some brilliant acting.
The cast does an absolutely amazing job with this script. Leslie Odom Jr. steals the show every time he graces a scene as Harold. Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, and Samson Moeakiola do great as Paulie, Silvio, and Pussy. They are absolutely fantastic as the younger versions of Tony’s confidants. Jon Bernthal and Ray Liotta bless us as Big John and Dickie’s father Hollywood Dick. Corey Stoll plays a great young Junior Soprano and Vera Farmiga is great as Tony’s mother Livia. There are so many actors and actresses to highlight they truly carry this film.
Peter Nashell’s score takes you back in time. The soundtrack and the score blend like morning coffee and put you in a time when wise guys ran things. The doo-wop songs, the jazz instruments, it’s definitely a gangster film. That time was also full of racially charged tension, and Taylor does a great job using that as a side focus. The spoken words of Gil-Scott Heron fill different scenes of the film involving the black characters and the protest/riots that took place. They definitely understood the time period and followed through with some great imagery. I enjoyed the little political bits, to show that things still haven’t changed for the most part.
The Many Saints of Newark is the first piece of Sopranos content we’ve gotten since 2007. Luckily, Chase and Taylor deliver the goods, and I couldn’t be happier. Sure, the pacing could be better, and the film would benefit from being longer, but if you’re a Sopranos fan, trust me when I say: it’s terrific. This film delivers on one of the great mysteries of the Sopranos. If you haven’t seen the show, you will still enjoy the movie if it’s your cup of tea. You’ll just have a ton of things from the show spoiled from the minute the opening credits roll. It’s a great story that’s a partial piece to a bigger one, and it definitely had the makings of a varsity athlete. – Rascal F. Kennedy
The Many Saints of Newark is now in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.