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The Many Saints of Newark (Movie Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film

SUMMARY

David Chase and Lawrence Konner have fashioned an uninspired prequel to 'The Sopranos' HBO franchise that includes a bland backstory for young Tony Soprano and a rather forgettable cast of mobsters.

From 1999 to 2007, David Chase’s HBO Series The Sopranos dominated American television, receiving 111 Emmy nominations and winning 21 awards over its six- season run. The Many Saints of Newark is billed as a Sopranos prequel that provides backstory of Tony Soprano. The title refers to the Moltisanti or “Many Saints” family led by “Hollywood Dick” (Ray Liotta). Hollywood Dick is a soldier in the powerful DiMeo syndicate that includes Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal), his brother Junior (Corey Stoll), Silvio Dante (John Magaro), Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Pussy Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakila) and his father “Buddha” (Joey Diaz). Dick has just returned from Italy with his beautiful young Italian bride Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi).  His son Dickie (Alessandro Nivola) is taken with Giuseppina and his infatuation will eventually contribute to the family’s undoing.

After white policemen assault a Black cab driver, the ensuing Newark race riots draw in Dickie’s former numbers-running associate Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.). Against this violent backdrop, Dickie finds out that his father has abused Giuseppina. In an uncontrollable fit of rage, Dickie kills Dick and burns his father’s dead body in a family-owned warehouse, making it look like riot-related arson.  Seeking “parental” advice, Dickie visits Dick’s twin brother Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), who is serving a life sentence for murder.  The widow Giuseppina becomes Dickie’s mistress and he promises to set her up in her own beauty salon.  However, Dickie is still married to Joanne (Gabriella Piazza) and has his own family, while a lonely Giuseppina has an affair with Harold that will have deadly consequences.

Johnny has served four years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, and during this time, Dickie has become a mentor to his young nephew Tony Soprano (William Ludwig) who has already exhibited some criminal behavior. Following Johnny’s release, Sally tells Dickie to leave Tony (Michael Gandolfini) now a high school student alone, a move that utterly confused and disappointed the young man. As the film winds down to its violent and not entirely surprising conclusion, enough loose ends remain to suggest that a sequel may be in order.

Having watched most of The Sopranos’ six seasons, I knew that the bar would be set high for The Many Saints of Newark. What disappointed me as it will for the many Soprano fans out there was David Chase’s uninspired script, a perfect example of lightning failing to strike twice in the same place.  There is a conspicuous lack of truly interesting characters, including the bland and relatively brief role assigned to the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael as the adolescent Tony. The major female cast members including a nearly unrecognizable Vera Farmiga as Tony’s mother Livia and Michela De Rossi’s naïve newlywed Giuseppina receive two-dimensional parts and do not really measure up to the strong women of The Sopranos like Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco. The recreation of the 1967 Newark riots that resulted in a “white flight” of Italian-American mob families like the Sopranos to the suburbs provide the most authentic scenes in this film, but their verisimilitude is not enough to bolster an otherwise mediocre crime saga. The only elements of this film that consistently worked for me were the period costumes, cars, music, and transformation of the location shots that effectively evoked Newark in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Otherwise, this is a very skippable film and a weak prequel to its ultra-popular HBO predecessor.

The Many Saints of Newark is in theaters now and streaming on HBO Max through October 31.


  • Rating Certificate: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity)
  • Studios & Distributors: Chase Films | HBO Films | Home Box Office | New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 120 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Director: Alan Taylor
  • Written By: David Chase | Lawrence Konner
  • Release Date: 1 October 2021
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David Chase and Lawrence Konner have fashioned an uninspired prequel to 'The Sopranos' HBO franchise that includes a bland backstory for young Tony Soprano and a rather forgettable cast of mobsters.The Many Saints of Newark (Movie Review)
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