Still from Warner Bros. ‘”The Many Saints of Newark.”
Who made Tony Soprano? That’s the question “The Many Saints of Newark” aims to answer over the course of its two-hour run.
However, those hoping for a story about a boy’s rise to the top of North Jersey’s most powerful criminal organization may be disappointed. Tony, played by the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael, plays a minor role in the film. Instead, it’s Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), Tony’s mobster uncle at the center of “Many Saints.”
The prequel to the feature film of the award-winning and beloved HBO The series “The Sopranos” opens in a cemetery. As the camera zooms in on Christopher Moltisanti’s tombstone, the audience hears the voice of actor Michael Imperioli, who played the character for six seasons. It narrates the film from beyond the grave.
Fans of the show will know that Christopher was beaten up by Tony in the last season. As a storyteller, he tells the story of his father Dickie, his grandfather “Hollywood Dick” and his grandfather’s young Italian girlfriend, Giuseppina, during a period of time that spans the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Dickie struggles to manage his professional and personal responsibilities – that is, running a criminal enterprise while juggling romantic entanglements with his father’s new wife. He also faces the betrayal of Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), his old muscle that was radicalized by the 1967 Newark riots, and decides that Italians should not have full control of the city.
“The Many Saints of Newark,” written by David Chase, the creator and showrunner of the original show, captures the spirit of its source material, but falls short of its roots, critics say.
“Perhaps it was inevitable that the greatest television show in history would spawn a feature-length prequel that is somewhat disappointing – it is conspicuous but strangely obtuse with a misleading narrative reveal that doesn’t add much,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in his review of the Guardian movie.
The film currently has a 77% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 61 reviews.
Here’s what critics of “The Many Saints of Newark” thought ahead of its theatrical and HBO release Max Friday:
“Those eager for a rise to power from Corleonesque will be disappointed to learn that Tony plays a minor role in ‘The Many Saints Of Newark,'” AA Dowd wrote in his AV Club review of the film. “In fact, for an entire hour, he’s basically the size of Jake Lloyd – a kid watching from the fringes of a criminal empire in the late 1960s in Jersey.”
His mention of Jake Lloyd is a reference to the first Star Wars prequel “The Phantom Menace,” in which a child actor played a major character in the franchise (in that case, Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader) and spent much of it of the movie watching other characters. with little agency of its own.
Many of the things that made “The Sopranos” a great success don’t appear in “The Many Saints of Newark,” Dowd said.
“Where is the prickly psychology, the gasping and funny midnight black humor, the dimension that Chase brought to every corner of a corrosively amoral criminal empire?” I ask. “Two decades ago, ‘The Sopranos’ proved that something truly novelistic could be created on the small screen, helping usher in a supposed golden age of television by using the freedoms of the format to tell expanding stories and develop characters. in a way that is not possible on the big screen. “
“The irony of ‘The Many Saints Of Newark’ is that it seems to do that again: while ‘The Sopranos’ showed that gangster film tropes could be revitalized through serialized storytelling, leaking them again in two hours. format leaves only … tropes, “he said.
Still from “The Many Saints of Newark”.
While “The Many Saints of Newark” may appeal more to “The Sopranos” fans, Linda Marric of The London Economic says the film “has something for everyone.”
Marric praised the performances of Gandolfini, who is filling his father’s big shoes, and of Nivola as “electrifying.”
“With a bit of self-reflective flair and some pretty hilarious Easter eggs designed to delight the show’s faithful, the film does exactly what was expected of it, even if it gets a little lost in the second act sometimes,” he wrote in your movie review. “A really exciting movie that will make you want to break out of your Soprano boxes and rewatch it all from the beginning.”
While the story of the Moltisanti family is interesting, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wonders if “The Many Saints of Newark” may have benefited by focusing more on Tony Soprano’s parents.
Livia, Tony’s mother played by Vera Farmiga, was one of the main antagonists of the television series, even going as far as trying to kill her own son.
“We heard about psychological issues from Livia and Tony (Tony’s high school career counselor who cleverly echoes the role of a therapist), but Farmiga surely should have been much more important,” Bradshaw said.
He praised Farmiga’s ability to recreate the gestures that Nancy Marchand first brought to life in the series.
“There is a gloriously dysfunctional moment when, maddened beyond bearing by his wife, Johnny subjects her to a mock execution in the car, firing his gun next to her ear,” Bradshaw explained. “But Livia remains absolutely impassive, staring relentlessly even as her handkerchief smolders and Johnny is reduced to muttering, ‘Don’t look at me like that.’
“There are a lot of sinners here: for the next movie, I want a leading role for Tony’s mother, the scariest Livia since me, Claudio,” he said.
Michael Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, like many critics, praised Michael Gandolfini’s portrayal of his father’s character, Tony Soprano.
He “matches his actor father in ways that are astonishing and dramatically moving,” Gleiberman wrote in his review of the film. “The front teeth that protrude slightly, creating a subliminal lisp, the look of a pleading moon-faced wonder: we look at this boy with long hair but still wide-eyed, who is like a more daring John Cusack, and is Just what you could have imagined Tony Soprano to be like a New Jersey criminal caught between his painfully dysfunctional family and the culture of freedom of rock ‘n’ roll. “
Still, “The Many Saints of Newark” didn’t live up to Gleiberman’s expectations.
“What we want most from this movie, which comes 14 years after ‘The Sopranos’ ended, is a sense of revelation,” he wrote. “We want him to show us how Tony Soprano, growing up as a ‘normal’ Italian-American teenager, slid down the path that would lead him to becoming a sociopathic gangster. We need to see him take that first step.”
This movie doesn’t do that, he said.
“Watching ‘The Many Saints of Newark’, this’ The Sopranos’ fan found Tony’s’ evolution ‘to the dark side to be even less compelling than Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader at the climax of’ Revenge of the Sith, ‘”he wrote. “In the end, I felt like we needed a second prequel, or maybe just the gist of television: another episode.”