The Many Saints of Newark Review – Welcome to the Family

The Many Saints of Newark

In 1999, The Sopranos helped revolutionize television with a character-led narrative and the kind of tone one would find in a sweeping cinematic film. Yet once the finale premiered on June 10th, 2007, Chase hung up his mob outfit with little interest in continuing with the series. Thus, it’s a bit ironic that the cinematic prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, would feel like an extended mid-tier episode instead of standing on its own. On the one hand, Saints of Newark has just enough elements that made the Sopranos so great. However, like most prequels, the film is inessential enough that one could easily skip over it. 

Because the problem with prequels is that the story can move in a limited amount of ways. It doesn’t matter how great the story is. Therefore, it lacks the sense of urgency and surprise that any prequel is basing itself on. You can find it in The HobbitFantastic Beasts, the Alien prequels, and of course, the Star Wars prequels. Also, the problem with Saints of Newark is that the script by creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner is a little too flat. As I said, it feels like a mid-tier episode from the series. At the same time, it also feels as if it’s trying to emulate a Scorsese mob epic. 

Not to mention, the primary conflict in Saints of Newark is so bumblingly put together. The conflict between Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) simply comes out of left field. It just builds in such a graceless manner that it feels as if key scenes were cut from the film. Nevertheless, the growing battle between them comes to a head and has lasting repercussions for many in the series—especially Tony. 

The Many Saints of Newark doesn’t reinvent the genre as The Sopranos did, but it’s still an engaging mob flick that Sopranos fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Despite all the criticism, The Many Saints of Newark is at its best when it focuses on Dickie Moltisanti. Much like Tony in The Sopranos, Dickie is an antihero who resorts to increasingly inhumane acts of violence to survive and get ahead. Yet, at the same time, he also has an absolute need to do good to ease his conscience. Of course, mentoring his brat nephew, Tony, is at the top of the list. Moreover, Dickie also coaches a blind baseball team in his community and spends time with his uncle in prison. Thankfully, Alessandro Nivola nails the role. Through Nivola’s nuanced performance, he gives a significant presence to a pivotal and previously never-before-seen character. He’s a dangerous man but also has the ability for atonement and self-reflection.

As for the other members of the family, everyone is stellar from top to bottom. However, The Many Saints of Newark also has many actors in the cast. Thus, many of the characters are spread out too thin to earn any sort of character arc. The younger versions of familiar characters—like Billy Magnussen as Paulie and John Magaro as Silvio—are nothing but fan service. Even so, the younger incarnations of Livia (Vera Farmiga) and Junior (Corey Stoll) Soprano are the exceptions since they embody their television counterparts while having an impact on the story. This is also true for Michael Gandolfini, who takes over the role that made his father a household name. He’s tough, but he yearns for answers to his loneliness—characteristics that defined his character throughout the series. So as they say, like father, like son.

Overall, The Many Saints of Newark is an engaging and entertaining mob flick that does exactly what it’s supposed to do. While the film doesn’t reinvent the genre as the series did, it’s still an enjoyable watch that will either boost their love of The Sopranos or serve as an intriguing introduction to the series. Either way, it offers a new and exciting look into the history of the characters we thought we knew.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

The Many Saints of Newark hits theaters and HBO Max on October 1st.

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