Great lead chemistry and much dialogue headline this Sopranos prequel
By Collin Frazier
Gangster films and television are either hit or miss these days. For every Oscar-winning The Departed, there is a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes Gotti. It really is hard for gangster films to make waves on the big screen nowadays. For the small screen, the gold standard for gangster television is The Sopranos… or so I’m told by my grandfather (I need to finish Barry on HBO Max before I start The Sopranos). However, any pop culture geek like myself is aware of the massive following the television show had during its 8 year run. So massive of a following that it earned its own prequel The Many Saints of Newark, which follows the story of “the man who made Tony Soprano”, his uncle Dicki Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). With no prior knowledge of the show, I did not know what to expect from this, and what I got was something that some may love, and some may go “meh”.
What stands out the most in this film is the relationship between a young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) and Moltisanti. Dicki was the best thing Tony had to a father figure throughout the majority of the movie, and despite his flaws, Dicki did his best to make his nephew better than himself. Of course, like many aunt/uncle-niece/nephew dynamics, they always would joke around and have fun at some points in the film. I thought it brought enough heart in this film to make you care for the two. While the film’s tag line was “Who made Tony Soprano,” it seemed the film didn’t answer that question. The relationship between Dicki and Tony did not seemed defined enough to answer the question. I felt like I didn’t understand how Dicki “made Tony Soprano”. If you’ve watched the show, I am sure it makes a lot more sense.
Something I thought this film did well was its kills. Not only were the kills both brutal and realistic, but they felt so nonchalant. Anytime somebody was killed, the movie did not allow you to mourn (except for one person), and I really enjoy that about gangster films. Everyone feels expendable that it is somewhat of a relief when they finally die, as sadistic as that sounds. The kill count may not be super high, but the execution is well done, and gives a shock value every time someone meets their end.
However, like other gangster films I have seen in my life, there is a lot of dialogue. This may be okay for fans of the show, but it may turn away casuals. Much of gangster films are rooted in political or social issues, and dialogue carries the commentary on those issues. The Many Saints of Newark is no exception, as it tackles racial issues of the 1960’s/1970’s. While I appreciated this in the film, the amount of dialogue may turn some off.
Overall, The Many Saints of Newark is certainly targeted at fans of The Sopranos, but if you are looking for a decent film to kill 2 hours, this is not the worst choice. My final rating for The Many Saints of Newark is 71/100