Review: The Many Saints Of Newark

A Prequel to the popular HBO series The Sopranos that follows the progress of a young Tony Sporano in his formative years of coming into the family “business”.

Young Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities—and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.

For the uninitiated The Sopranos is a popular TV series from HBO that ran from 1999-2007 following Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) who struggles to manage his family and criminal life and confides his affairs to his psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). The Many Saints Of Newark, is set back in the late 60’s – 70s as something of a curtain raiser for the series. Opening with a spoiler for the conclusion of the movie or some may say foreshadowing, we have Dickie narrate proceedings and take us on our journey into all things Sporano.

For anyone who’s never seen The Sopranos before, The Many Saints Of Newark is viewable as it doesn’t really do anything other than introduce some of the main characters and locales. Other than that it’s nothing more than a perfunctory gangster film, that fancies itself as Goodfellas (It even manages to get Ray Liotta involved), but falls far short of the mark. It ends up being closer in tone to John Travolta’s Gotti and that’s not a good thing.

Alessandro Nivola is outstanding as the mentor to a young Tony, throughout his character is the most interesting character to follow. Everyone else including Michael Gandolfini is nothing but window dressing. For a film that is supposedly about the rise of Tony Soprano, he spends most of the film putting in nothing more than glorified cameos, littered throughout the story to keep it in tune with the prequel storyline. It manages to waste the talents of Leslie Odom Jr. Jon Bernathal, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi and Vera Farmiga by marginalising their characters and not ever really fleshing them out beyond a parody of mob figures. Most of all it really drops the ball when it comes to giving us the reasons for why Momma Soprano is so overbearing the whole time.

David Chase may have created the Sopranos to many plaudits, but here with The Many Saints Of Newark the story peters out before it’s even begun. Alan Taylors limp direction means the film does really flow, moreover flopping from one scene to the next without any real purpose. This may have worked better as a four part mini series on TV. But it looks like the Sopranos ship had already sailed and even Sopranos fans wills struggle to find much to enjoy here.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Many Saints Of Newark is in cinemas now and available to rent on Digital Download

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