September 30, 2021

GENRE | Deconstructing 'The Sopranos' – 'The Many Saints of Newark'

"I try to be good."
Michael Gandolfini David Chase Alan Taylor | The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story
New Line Cinema / HBO Films
The Sopranos creator David Chase brings his famed suburban New Jersey mob drama to the big screen, well sort of. Set around the Newark riots of 1967, The Many Saints of Newark serves as a prequel to the acclaimed HBO series starring both younger versions of our favourite criminal ne'er-do-wells while also introducing us to the previous generation of mobsters who shepherded them.

Journeyman director Alan Taylor, who helmed many of the show's most notable episodes, directs the feature-length film, which understandably, resembles a longer, more stylishly captured flashback episode of the original series. New York character actor Alessandro Nivola stars dynamically as Dickie Moltisanti, father of Christopher whose surname means "many saints" in Italian, an often mentioned mentor figure mentioned in the show.

Much has been made of Michael Gandolfini (son of James) and his absolutely electric turn as a delinquent Tony Soprano in taking over the iconic role his father originated while William Ludwig portrays him as a young boy in the film's first half. It's a fine performance hinting at the character's rise and criminal future. Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga as co-star as Tony's parents, Johnny Boy and Livia, who flesh out The Sopranos' mythology.

Leslie Odom Jr. Germar Terrell Gardner David Chase Alan Taylor | The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story

Many Saints features an impressive supporting cast including Leslie Odom Jr. as Dickie's foil, Corey Stoll as a young Uncle Junior, Billy Magnussen as Paulie, John Magaro as Silvio, and Ray Liotta in dual roles who all bring intriguing twists and qualities to portrayals through limited screen time. Produced and written by Chase alongside Sopranos veteran screenwriter Lawrence Konner, the film's slow-moving script brings a familiar, even nostalgic, episodic quality to the story's pace and structure.

Much of the prequel presents a vaguely revisionist but fascinating vision of The Sopranos saga—some of which was referenced in the series, but admittedly, as recounted by a bunch of unreliable liars and thieves. The Many Saints of Newark stretches its characters' origins just as it frames their histories against the past racial tensions of New Jersey in a lean two-hour running time.

The Many Saints of Newark is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand in Canada.

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