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The many problems with the Saints of Newark


Reboots, prequels, and sequels that come out many years after an original production have the potential to seem rushed, and “The Many Saints of Newark” is no exception. For the average viewer, this prequel movie, which takes place 30 years before the start of the famous TV series, “The Sopranos,” seems to be a generic mafia film with a throwaway cast of characters. However, for fans of the show, especially ones that pay close attention to the plot, the movie is a fresh and welcoming addition to the story, and offers a glimpse at the formative years of Tony Soprano, even though the movie really isn’t about him. The film is set in Newark, New Jersey during the 1967 Newark Riots, and then skips to the year 1972. The protagonist, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) is a mafia member who has trouble grappling with his lifestyle, and tries to find an outlet to soothe his mind, much like Tony in the TV show.

“The Many Saints of Newark” makes it known in the very first minute that it was intended for fans of the show that have seen it all the way through. A very major plot point of the show is spoiled, giving away one of the key details of the ending. Seeing that this reveal is in the very beginning of the movie, it’s hard to see how screenwriter David Chase and director Alan Taylor plan on keeping this story fresh. By spoiling this specific moment in the TV show, it makes it more difficult for new fans to enjoy the film. 

Many of the characters from the original show make an appearance in “Many Saints.” The actors do a wonderful job of echoing the original legendary characters, with a few exceptions. Some of the characters seem to be more of a caricature of the original characters, namely Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), whose prequel character, played by John Magaro, appears to be more forced and unnatural with his mannerisms. Then, there is actor Michael Gandolfini. Gandolfini has large shoes to fill by taking on the role of Tony, originally played by his late father, James Gandolfini. The second Gandolfini was able to show an adequate portrayal of Tony, yet was unable to truly grasp the character. When compared to his father, he simply does not live up to the expectations, which is understandable, considering that this is his first acting gig. In fact, in a recent interview, Gandolfini claimed to have never even seen “The Sopranos” until after he was cast in the movie. 

The plot struggles in that it tries to be too many things at once. On one hand, it is a story about Dickie Moltisanti filling the “father role” for a struggling teenage Tony. On top of that, Dickie is having an internal conflict with one of his main earners, Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.). This part of the story is where the plot begins to fail. Harold is a Black man in a mafia-controlled city. Fresh off the Newark Riots, he has an awakening and becomes a Black nationalist who is hell bent on ridding Newark of the mafia, starting with Dickie. The movie does little to explain Harold’s sudden hatred towards Dickie, considering that for the first half hour or so, Harold and Dickie are very good friends. In fact, Dickie is the only member of the DiMeo crime family that sees him as a person, and uses little-to-no racist rhetoric towards him. However, there is one moment in particular, in which Dickie’s girlfriend, Giuseppina (Michela Di Rossi) is caught staring at Harold, to which Dickie responds, “You don’t stare at those people.” His tone is racist, yet for Dickie to suddenly look down upon Harold doesn’t make sense, as it was established that they were friends since high school. 

Overall, “The Many Saints of Newark” is apprehensive towards new fans of the acclaimed show, but offers a taste of what came before “The Sopranos,” which many fans of the TV series may find appealing. The movie had high expectations, but ultimately fell under the weight of what came before it— or, technically, after it. It almost would have been better had this movie been fleshed-out into a limited series. There is simply too much plot to be squeezed into a two-hour window of time. 

“The Many Saints of Newark” is in theatres and available for streaming on HBO Max now.

Featured Image courtesy of Wallpapersden

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  • AnonymousOct 25, 2021 at 9:34 am


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The many problems with the Saints of Newark