HOLLYWOOD—Many people made it crystal clear to me “The Many Saints of Newark” is NOT the HBO classic “The Sopranos.” It is a prequel to that iconic TV series that I must admit I have seen plenty of episodes. Now would I consider myself a diehard fan of “The Sopranos?” No, but I have enough working knowledge to understand and to know what is taking place America.
However, watching “The Many Saints of Newark,” only reminded me that much more how I adored “The Sopranos” and how I wish it returned to the small screen in some way. The movie forces you to remember those iconic characters and how they shaped TV today and those small winks of character analysis pop up as we see the return of classic characters like Junior Soprano, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts and who can forget P. Bonpensiero.
This movie is the perfect mobster flick, but at the same time that works against it as I feel like Ray Liotta’s dual portrayal of “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti, twin brothers, who I almost could tell differences in the characters. Liotta is known for playing the mobster character, so much to the point that he has been typecast as that character in Hollywood, so his testament as an actor is constantly overlooked as a result.
The biggest misconception with this flick is everyone will think it’s about Anthony aka Tony Soprano, but let me be clear people it is NOT. The film is all about Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who plays the iconic villain, who ultimately shapes Tony Soprano to become the man that he is in “The Sopranos.” Dickie is learning the biz under the wing of this father, Hollywood Dick who is a bit of a womanizer and an abuser.
You can see the tension between Dickie and his father play out, which I hoped David Chase’s script would have explored just a bit more. It is fun to see those dynamics between children and their parents play out because it ultimately shapes them into the adults they become. This flick is NOT lacking on talent people. I mean Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stall, John Magaro, Billy Magnussen are all talented on every front. However, Michael Gandolfini is pitch perfect as the iconic character. The problem is the audience gets a slight tease of Gandolfini’s interpretation of the role his father crafted and you want to so much more after seeing this actor in the role people. He is golden and I mean golden in the flick, but do not be sutured to the thought that his presence is throughout the entire flick because it is not. It takes a minute before he shows up and when he does you cannot take your eyes off of the character.
At the core, the movie examines Dickie’s rise to power and fall from it, when a former ally becomes a foe. There is that element of race riots that explodes in Newark as a result of several White cops assaulting a Black taxi driver. Not sure the potency of that plot point beyond it echoes what we saw in 2020 in the country or how it causes an awakening in Harold (Leslie Odom Jr.) to realize that he is Dickie’s lackie and decides to take his future into his own hands.
The violence is tame compared to the mayhem audiences saw in “The Sopranos,” but when we see those violent moments they are indeed explosive and force you to cringe just a bit, which I think is an absolute wink at the series people. “The Many Saints of Newark” is not an instant classic, but it does the work to remind the audience why we loved “The Sopranos” and why so many of us want the series to return.