Review: The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story (2021)

5 Star.png
5 Star.png

#Cinema, #Film, #movie review

David North-Martino

Oct 7, 2021

Review: The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story (2021)


The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel to the hit HBO series The Sopranos directed by Alan Taylor, written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner, and starring Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams, Goodfellas), Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off, Jurassic Park III) Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), and Michael Gandolfini (Ocean’s 8). 

I have a confession to make: I’ve never watched a full episode of the Sopranos. In truth, I probably wouldn’t have viewed The Many Saints if I weren’t writing reviews. This leaves me at a distinct disadvantage but also frees me to approach The Many Saints like a standalone movie. 

The Many Saints has nostalgia going for it, and of course, Michael Gandolfini, James Gandolfini’s son, who plays his dad’s character as a young man. If you’re a fan of the show, you'll probably watch this and enjoy it.

The Many Saints isn’t so much a Tony Soprano origin story, as a tale of his mentors and influences. Is this because the studio didn’t feel an inexperienced actor could carry the whole movie? Maybe. I think they should have taken the risk. As it stands, Tony Soprano is relegated to a secondary character. 

Dickie Moltisanti played by Alessandro Nivola, Tony’s mentor, acts as the protagonist. Unfortunately, Nivola plays the character like he’s watched one too many Andrew Dice Clay comedy specials. 

Michael Gandolfini musters a fine performance, and looks a lot like his dad, and hence a young Tony Soprano.  

Ray Liotta plays “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti, a little over the top in the beginning so he can act more stoic later in the film. The effect is jarring and doesn’t work. I’m being intentionally vague here not to give away any spoilers. 

Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano is the shining light here. She gets so absorbed into her character; I didn’t realize it was Farmiga playing the part until my wife recognized her halfway through the picture. 

Tired stereotypes abound, and while they might be true of that generation, the characters come off as caricatures instead of real-life human beings. 

The plot itself is pretty predictable and some events take place just to move the story along.

Many times I was left wondering if certain situations or actions would arise during that time period. Effectively, taking me out of the movie.  
 
Perhaps, to elevate the story, the action takes place during the 1967 Newark riots. Although this adds to the setting and mood, it never fully connects to the plot.  

Still, The Many Saints is watchable, if a bit bland, feeling more like a long TV episode than a feature film. The best I can say is I’ve seen a lot worse. 

Story Doctoring: 

In today’s environment, it seems filmmakers are playing it a little safe. Until they get past their fear, we’re going to be left with mediocre entertainment. I'd have liked the focus to remain on the young Tony Soprano. Making him the main character and seeing the events through his eyes would do a lot to help the viewer connect with his upbringing and understand the man he would become. 

Rating: Two out of five stars.