Spread it or ignore it?
New to HBO Max is The Many Saints of Newark, and in case you just woke up from sleeping with the fish (maybe napping with Big Pussy?), this is a spin-off feature from the series’ biggest contender television of all time. The Sopranos. Not much of a spoiler: No, series creator David Chase isn’t going to tell us what happened in the restaurant when the series finale went black (and single-handedly reinvigorated Journey’s career). Rather, Many saints is a prequel and sort of origin story, showing us some formative years in the life of eventual Jersey Mafia boss Tony Soprano. Young Tone is played by Michael Gandolfini, a spitting image of his old man, the late James Gandolfini, who created the character in the original series. That alone can make the movie a staple for fans, whether good or not.
The essential: Fade into: the cemetery. We hear the voice of Michael Imperioli, narrating the role of Christopher Moltisanti, and we almost certainly feel a bit smothered as the nostalgia presses HARD, doesn’t it? Christo-FUHH (you know you can’t resist saying it that way) introduces us to his father, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), chatting with a “little fat kid”, Tony Soprano (William Ludwig), and that is here that Christopher reveals he’s telling from the afterlife, as he reminds us that Tony murdered him in an episode we saw 14 years ago, which makes us want to see him again, but not before reviewing all the episodes that preceded it, then reviewing all the episodes that followed. Funny how it goes.
The year is 1967. The Moltisantis and the Sopranos run the Italian Mafia in Newark: Dickie and his old Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta). Tony’s father, Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) and his uncle Junior (Corey Stoll). Key partners Silvio Dante (John Magaro), Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen) and Big Pussy Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola). Christopher will be born soon enough. They drive aircraft carrier-sized Cadillacs, run gambling networks and extort locals, release their owners’ possessions and merge genitals with their mistresses – and so make me look up the spelling correct “goomar” – and all that. They’re hiding in Satriale’s Pork Store and Atta Boy Auto Shop, but Bada Bing isn’t a thing yet.
Aldo returns from Italy with a young new wife, Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi), and Dickie and his wife Joanne (Gabriella Piazza) have to listen to them making hilarious / disturbing sex noises through the wall. Johnny gets pinched on an assault warrant when the cops attack an illegal card game and ends up making a two-to-five. Tony is a little shit with an “Alfred E. Neuman for the President” poster on his wall. He drives his mother, Livia (Vera Farmiga), mad, and frankly, she’s already quite neurotic; with his pops gone, Dickie steps in as a surrogate dad, and they end up being pretty tight. Importantly, Dickie maintains a partnership with Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), which helps prevent local black gangs from playing with Family Business. When local cops pull over and beat up a black cab driver, Newark erupts into violent riots and looting, and the Sopranos / Moltisanti take to the streets with their Black Lives Matter gear? No, they use it as a cover for their ongoing criminal shenanigans and an excuse to maintain their racism.
Christopher returns to fill the void in a narrative leap: “The 60s are over and Neil Young gave this speech from the moon. We finally see young Gandolfini playing the character played by his father, and I guarantee you are going to either press pause or gasp or cry or shit your pants when you get the low angle on the kid grabbing. a fork of ziti. Tony wants to be a footballer; he is intelligent but does not apply; we stop / gasp / cry / shit again when we see him discussing his feelings with his guidance counselor. Her father comes out and immediately begins to get on with Livia. Tony watches Largo key on TV and quotes the Stones; he calls “uncle” Dickie to buy beer for himself and his friends, including Teen Carmela. He idolizes Dickie a bit, which makes sense, because Dickie has about a dozen jobs, and we know who Tony becomes: a fucking mess.
What movies will this remind you of? : I would note the Soprano film equal to Deadwood: the movie, a little better than El Camino: A breakthrough film and not even in the same league as The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. (It also has a lot that homecoming gangster movie feeling that we got while watching Irish.)
Performances to watch: We’re all on board to watch Michael Gandolfini in Tone loves Carm, is not it ? The child shows a real charisma (insert the nature versus culture debate here) and makes the most of his time on screen. His Tony appears to be a normal teenager, perhaps even a little naive, and it would be fascinating to watch Gandolfini’s Son slowly slide into the moral quagmire.
Memorable dialogue: Aldo and Guiseppina fight violently and scream after leaving his douchebag in the shower:
Aldo: Does Venus de Milo have a douchebag?
Giuseppina: She can’t use a douchebag. She is disabled.
Gender and skin: Yes, the goomars are seeing a lot of action here.
Our opinion : The Many Saints of Newark is the fascinating evolution of Tony Soprano, and almost as essential is his description of the fascinating evolution of Silvio’s hair. Nivola dominates screen time, as Dickie was Tony before Tony was Tony, so set your expectations for how much time you’ll get for Tony. The serial That Guy character actor Nivola shows just enough presence to carry the film, which may inspire reviews that it is a gangster drama somewhat by heart. But he’s a relatively bland presence driving the platform for the supporting characters, all familiar names with younger faces – and therefore proves that the scary tree’s content on Dagobah consists only of what you pack with it. you. That is to say, Soprano diehards of nostalgic travel will get the most out of it.
And it’s definitely a nostalgic journey worth it, even if it stretches out a bit to maintain some modern relevance. Chase – script with longtime Soprano collaborator Lawrence Konner – effectively cuts the subplot of the Dark Experience so the film doesn’t just tread familiar ground and stoke our emotions. It is very pleasant to see Liotta folded up in the Soprano mythos like the hilariously bellicose Aldo; it is an OTT highlight of the first half where Gandolfini brings nuances to the second. Maybe the movie is a bit light compared to the heavy drama of the series; the series’ signature comedy is intact, representing the film’s most entertaining moments. But the most important, Many saints delves into Tony Soprano’s story enough to make it a rich and rewarding experience.
Our call: Stream it. Take advantage of re-binging The Sopranos, everyone.