Review – The Many Saints Of Newark
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Release Date: September 22nd 2021
I got the chance to see The Many Saints Of Newark a few nights ago and I thought that it was pretty great. The film serves as a prequel to the classic New Jersey mob show, The Sopranos. One thing I do want to make clear before delving into my review is that this is not a movie about a young Tony Soprano.
Whilst the film does star James Gandolfini’s real life son Michael as a younger version of the iconic gangster, he is not the main character. Despite what the movie’s marketing would have you believe, this story more closely follows Dickie Moltisanti, who is Tony’s uncle and mentor.
Movies like these; as in ones that follow an iconic, ground-breaking series, first and foremost have to justify their existence. If this thing had been anything less than great, then it would have only tarnished The Sopranos otherwise gleaming reputation as one of the greatest stories ever told onscreen. Thankfully it is great, therefore justifies its existence.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that almost all of the aspects that make up this film are pretty much perfect. The performances, led by a cruelly calm Alessandro Nivola as Dick Moltisanti, are all phenomenal. Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga play Tony’s parents and both are fantastic in their roles respectively. Ray Liotta reminds us of his amazing range as a dynamically varied actor playing twins who have vastly different personalities and he sells it in a totally believable way.
Additionally, Corey Stoll, John Magaro and Billy Magnussen are all brilliant as the younger versions of characters from the original show. However, Leslie Odom Jr really stood out for me as Dickie’s rival Harold McBrayer. He gives a performance unlike anything I have seen him do before, bringing an unpredictable fierceness to the character that makes for an intense watch.
With all of that said, Michael Gandolfini’s portrayal of a young Tony Soprano will most likely be the performance that audiences will be left talking about after the film ends. It is almost surreal to see him effortlessly re-enact his father’s inflections and mannerisms. He is by far the most unpolished actor in the cast, however this actually works to his benefit as he comes across as the most natural and realistic character in the movie.
The cinematography in the film by Kramer Morgenthau strikes a nice balance between the more familiar shooting style used in the original Sopranos series and more polished looking shot compositions achieved the more modern equipment being used. The score also complemented the movie’s tone and the soundtrack was made up of some brilliant era-appropriate songs.
Although David Chase had to drop out of directing the piece due to personal issues, Alan Taylor did a great job replacing him. For long time Sopranos fans, this film feels like slipping on an old comfortable pair of shoes and I think that feeling of familiarity is owed in large part to Taylor’s direction.
Whilst David Chase didn’t sit in the director’s chair for this one, he did write it along with Lawrence Konner. The sharp, witty dialogue has Chase’s fingerprints all over it, which works a treat. The actual plot of the movie is fairly straightforward, which makes it easy to follow, however I did feel that the rivalry established between Dickie and Harold left something to be desired. It just felt a bit shallow and surface-level.
The other nit-pick that I have with the film was the ending. The way that Tony’s story ended was clever in the way that it hinted towards him becoming the Tony Soprano that we know from the original series, complete with a hint of the classic musical score from the show. However, I felt that more could have been done with Harold. The way that things were left between Harold, Dickie and Junior just felt like somewhat of an anti-climax.
Overall, The Many Saints Of Newark is a must see for any long-time Sopranos fan. In a similar fashion to El Camino, it adds to the original beloved show that it was based on, without taking anything away from the base show’s stellar legacy. Strong performances and a sharp script keep you engaged throughout the two hour runtime.
If you enjoyed Dan’s review of The Many Saints Of Newark, check out what he thought of Sons Of Anarchy here.
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