The Many Saints of Newark (marketed with the subtitle A Sopranos Story) is a 2021 American crime drama film directed by Alan Taylor and written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner. A prequel to Chase’s HBO crime drama series The Sopranos, it takes place during the 1960s and 1970s in Newark, New Jersey. The film follows a violent gang war from the perspectives of mobster Dickie Moltisanti and his teenage nephew, Tony Soprano, in the midst of the city’s 1967 riots.
The problem with The Many Saints of Newark is that it doesn’t really know whose story it is telling – Anthony Soprano? Hardly does much in the movie except following his uncle everywhere and giving free icecream to neighbourhood kids. Dickie Moltisanti? Alessandro Nivola plays him well but his character isn’t fleshed out. Race? Black characters come up but no one can identify with them as we rarely see any having a major role in the hit show that preceded the movie, so you keep asking, why are they important to this film? The Race Riots could be shown but they hardly had a major impact on Tony’s upbringing that one again asks why?
We do get to see a young Silvio Dante, Paulie and Pussy who again have no real storylines and hardly any interaction with Tony. Ralph Cifaretto and Jackie Aprile don’t really show up but if one remembers the show, it was always stressed how Tony and his young crew were strong upcomers. The movie suffers from the fact that the show preceding it was a work of art – plus most of the people who would want to watch the movie are fans of The Sopranos and thus would be extremely pissed if the movie made any errors depicting beloved characters.
There are a lot of characters who didn’t need to be cast – Ray Liotta as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti, twin brothers, is one example. Hollywood Dick is Dickie Moltisanti’s father, and recently married to a young girl from Italy, who later becomes Dickie Moltisanti’s lover once he murders his father. Again, dull additions to a movie where everyone keeps waiting for more of a proper origin story.
One of the casting choices is a real success and that’s Michael Gandolfini, who does very well to fill the shoes of his father’s role. He brings Anthony Sopranos, nervous laughter, temper and cunning in his teenage role. However, the story doesn’t belong to him either and thus, we never get to see him shine. Vera Farmiga does well bringing the younger Livia Soprano to life but John Bernthal is wasted as Johnny Soprano. Corey Stoll as Corrado “Junior” Soprano is solid but again feels like another wasted character in this crazy medley.
All in all the movie is good to stream on your laptop but any real Sopranos fan is going to be disappointed. Any other viewer would just be confused by the number of characters without any meat. This is a movie, that would have been a great success as a Television Show as it would allow the characters to grow and bring their own charm to the Sopranos.
Watch for a little bit of the nostalgia if you’re a Sopranos fan like me – but Antony Soprano has faded to black and he ain’t never coming back.