The Many Saints of Newark is an American crime drama film directed by Alan Taylor and written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner. The film is a prequel of The Sopranos, the popular HBO series created by Chase with numerous younger versions of favourite characters appearing.
While prequels tend to be dicey propositions, The Many Saints of Newark bucks that particular trend comfortably, even if as a story it never quite matches the highs of The Sopranos. Naturally, much of its appeal will be to fans of The Sopranos, thrilled to see these characters return, albeit in younger guises.
Ostensibly, the main character of The Many Saints of Newark is Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) – an unseen character in The Sopranos – the father of Christopher, a prominent character in the original series. In fact, Christopher narrates much of the story in voice-over. Moltisanti’s arc is placed in parallel to new character Harold McBrayer (Harry Odom Jr.) – an African-American gangster – whom the story uses as a device to reflect the plight of African-Americans in the 1960s & 1970s (and of course, provide the obligatory diversity).
In that respect, the familiar Sopranos characters are really in the background more than anything else and operate in similar fashion to Easter Eggs in genre movies. Thus, how much the audience is able to take out of these ‘cameo’ appearances depends on how familiar they are with the original series.
That said, the performance of Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano, Michael Gandolfini (James’ son) as the teenaged Tony Soprano and Ray Liotta as twin brothers “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti (Richard’s father and uncle, respectively) deserve special mention and certainly elevate the film somewhat.
However, the story of “Little Dickie” is almost stereotypical, in the final analysis, and the emphasis on Harold seems somewhat out of place in this context. It is probably unfair to compare The Many Saints of Newark to The Sopranos but it is irresistible and unfortunately this prequel film pales in comparison to the original. Still, for diehard fans of The Sopranos, there is enough of the original flavour in The Many Saints of Newark to render its viewing essential.
Now in the cinemas and streaming on HBO Max.
… still there’s more …