The prequel film to one of the most beloved and highly regarded TV shows of all time. The Many Saints of Newark sees a young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) growing up in the racially torn streets of Newark, where he idolises his uncle: Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nicola), who struggles to maintain both his personal and professional relationships. Having the potential to please the hardcore fans of the series, The Many Saints Of Newark unfortunately suffers with its lacklustre plot, pacing and unsatisfactory depth.
Written by Jack Ransom
Firstly, just to clarify that prior to seeing this film I haven't seen all of The Sopranos, just the first two series. However with this being a prequel and having a general cinema release, having seen all the series shouldn’t be essential, despite the extremely heavy handed fan service on display here. Having said that, even if i'd seen all the episodes of the show the outcome probably would still be just as dismissive and disappointing with this addition to the narrative.
The film suffers with trying to stuff too much in its 2 hour runtime and ultimately largely fails to deliver any satisfying depth and focus on any of its subplots. Just when one of the character focuses becomes interesting it either ends or switches focus to another and the cycle repeats. A couple of these subplots have striking moments, with the backdrop of the 1967 Newark riots being the most effective. Substantial references are made and key moments are delivered for fans to point out and recognise, however in terms of introducing a new audience to the material the film will largely prove confusing or un-engaging.
The production value is very strong and it certainly delivers a more cinematic feeling style to the material that the series (so far) hasn’t reached, though it doesn’t really need to. There is some nice cinematography and framing, the set design captures the era excellently and the soundtrack features some standout tunes. There are a couple of solid shootouts and a gnarly torture sequence with suitably gory practical effects, but nothing particularly memorable.
The casting and performances are easily the strongest aspect of the film, with the nuances and voice inflictions being absolutely nailed by Vera Farmiga and Corey Stoll, as well as Billy Magnussen & John Magaro as a young Pauline & Silvio. Michael Gamdolfini definitely captures the essence of his father at times, it’s just a shame the character isn’t particularly interesting or focused upon in this film. Alessandro Nivola is strong in the lead role of Dickie and Jon Bernthal, Leslie Odom Jr. & Ray Liotta also have a good presence.
The Many Saints Of Newark may please hardcore fans of the series with its myriad of Easter eggs and excellent casting choices. However its lacklustre plot, pacing and unsatisfactory depth and exploration of these characters renders it largely average.