By: Amanda Guarragi
Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark is supposed to be a prequel about Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini). Highlighting the years that turned him into the capo we see in The Sopranos. Unfortunately, they barely scratched the surface on the important aspects of young Tony Soprano’s life. The focus, of course, was on Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), his uncle who raised him while his father Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) was in jail. This prequel was about Moltisanti and his endeavours and we barely even see young Tony Soprano in this movie.
The reason why this film felt disjointed is because it was trying to blend two different stories. We have Moltisanti and his connection to the Soprano’s and then we have his relationship with Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) on the side that takes a life of its own. The storyline would have benefitted from a mini-series structure versus a two-hour film. There were too many side stories that overpowered Tony’s relationship with Moltisanti. We had very few moments of Tony on screen. And in those moments Michael Gandolfini really gave so much of himself to this performance, even if he had ten minutes of screen time.
Alessandro Nivola gives a very strong performance as Moltisanti but he has very little to work with. Mob films always have a sense of community within the family and I feel like that was the main emotional disconnect. The main themes of family, loyalty and respect were missing from this film. As a prequel to The Sopranos or even as a standalone mob film, those are necessary things needed to actually connect to these characters. It lacked the Italian charm that Tony always had in The Sopranos as well. We were told to have a connection to these characters because of who they are and not because it was shown to us.
The Many Saints of Newark feels like an entirely different film than what was promised for Soprano’s fans. If anything, it will make you want to watch the series from the beginning, which is a good thing. It’s also quite disappointing to know that David Chase wrote this script and did not do his own characters justice. In my eyes, this is a set back and they should have made a prequel series on HBO instead, with Michael Gandolfini as lead. I really wanted to love this because mob movies are so rare nowadays and they will always be dear to my heart.