Tony Soprano is back, and this, it’s all still very personal as the first reviews for The Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, are now in. So, is it worth returning to the violent, sometimes terrifying, often hilarious world of the New Jersey gangster and thus explore his early years, perhaps even getting further insight into what makes the future mob boss tick? Well, yes, is the short answer, but the concensus seems to be that you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’re already a fan.
“The Many Saints of Newark hits harder if you know and care about the family – and the “family” – at the heart of the story.”
CinemaBlend’s Sean O’Connell certainly felt that the events depicted in The Many Saints of Newark hit much harder if you are already well-versed in this world and these characters. This is an opinion that was shared by David Ehrlich of IndieWire, who too felt that the movie was somewhat held back by its own mythology, a mythology that you will benefit from already understanding.
“Equal parts gratuitous fan service and gripping mob drama; a clumsy devil’s handshake of a film that’s asphyxiated to death by the same mythology it also leverages into a masterful origin story about cyclical violence and the sins of the father.”
Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent though found a lot to like about The Many Saints of Newark, arguing that the movie both pays fanservice too The Sopranos and manages to take the familiarity in different directions, even adding further intrigue to the critically acclaimed television series.
“The Many Saints of Newark is both instantly recognisable and somehow unplaceable. It’s fierce and brilliant, too – a work that both expands on and complicates The Sopranos’s cultural legacy.”
Much praise is also heaped on the performances of Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti and Leslie Odom Jr. as Harold McBrayer, with David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter calling them both “compelling”, though he did find fault with the movie itself saying, “”The Many Saints of Newark is more of a diverting footnote than an invaluable extension of the show’s colossal legacy.” EW’s Leah Greenblatt felt similarly regarding the performances, describing Nivola’s work as “soulful and tormented,” whilst commending the movie itself for feeling just enough like the superb series that preceded it. “Saints can’t be what Sopranos was – without the time or the ones who’ve been lost to tell it, fuggedaboutit. But for a hundred-something minutes, it feels close enough to coming home again,” Greenblatt said.
It is in comparisons with the series where The Many Saints of Newark starts to stumble a little, with A.A. Dowd from AV Club finding the characters and the plot to be too thin; “What he comes up with in this over-plotted Sopranos prequel is much less interesting than what he planted in our heads over six seasons.”
In fact, Brian Lowry from CNN.com even argued that perhaps The Many Saints of Newark would have fared better avoiding the feature-length runtime and instead being developed as a television series much like The Sopranos.
“The Many Saints of Newark” turns out to be a credible and rewarding film. But with a bit more seasoning and time in the oven, like its HBO predecessor, it actually might have risen into a truly sensational TV show.”
Now, let’s move back to the more positive side of things with Charlotte O’Sullivan of London Evening Standard, who took a lot away from exploring the youth of Tony Soprano, ultimately awared The Many Saints of Newark a glowing 5/5 rating.
“Casually important, traumatically enjoyable, The Many Saints of Newark is a tale of the unexpected that will cause cineastes, as well as life-long couch potatoes, to cry hallelujah.”
Finally, Chris Evangelista from SlashFilm describes the movie as a “bloody deconstruction of the Mob movie,” finding the look into the past very worthwhile and adding another layer of tragedy to the already complex character of Tony Soprano in a way that only a well-made prequel can.
“The ultimate tragedy is that we can see the tiniest glimmer of hope for Tony here, but we know it’s a false hope. In the end, he’ll never get away from this violent world. And he’ll send those he claims to love straight to hell.”
Directed by Alan Taylor and written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner, The Many Saints of Newark will precede David Chase’s hugely successful crime series, The Sopranos, picking up with a young Anthony “Tony” Soprano, who is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, and becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities-and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.
The project has amassed a stellar cast led by Alessandro Nivola (Disobedience, A Most Violent Year) as Dickie Moltisanti. The supporting cast includes the likes of Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Punisher) as Giovanni Francis “Johnny Boy” Soprano, the father of crime boss Tony Soprano, and Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Conjuring), who stars as Giovanni’s wife and Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano.
They are joined by Corey Stoll (Ant-Man), Billy Magnussen (No Time to Die), Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express), Joey Diaz (Spider-Man 2) and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), and Michael Gandolfini, the real-life son of the late, great James Gandolfini, with the young actor taking over the role of Anthony “Tony” Soprano during his early years.
Coming courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, The Many Saints of Newark will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Fall Preview on September 22, 2021. It is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on October 1, along with a month-long simultaneous release on the HBO Max streaming service.