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Featured Movie Reviews

The Many Saints of Newark


If you love “The Sopranos”, buckle up for two hours of fresh insight, crime family drama and all the violence, sex and 1960’s New Jersey you can handle. THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK is creator David Chase’s chance to tell us how Tony Soprano became the beloved character we all cheered for as he navigated his crime family and his family at home.

The film centers on Dickie Moltisanti (Moltisanti means “many saints” in Italian) father of Christopher, who was played so brilliantly by Michael Imperioli in the HBO series. Imperioli narrates the film, referencing events we know and guiding us through the past events that informed them.

Dickie (Alessandro Nivola from “American Hustle”) is the flashy mobster of the neighborhood, all sharkskin suits and wads of cash that he doles out to the neighborhood. In 1960’s Newark, the race riots are about to explode and Dickie is more color blind than most in the era’s casual sea of racism. One of Dickie’s most loyal runners is Harold, played by Leslie Odom Jr (Hamilton). Harold is growing tired of the limitations of his role and decides to start his own neighborhood numbers racket.

The two men’s growing conflict is circled by younger versions of all the characters you know and love. Vera Farmiga is the unhinged Livia Soprano, showing every evil touch of Tony’s mom in the series. Corey Stoll is a young, bald and profane Junior, giving us a peek into the underlying tension we saw in later years. Ray Liotta is Dickie’s Dad, who brings his new young bride Giuseppina home from a trip to Italy. Michela De Rossi is stunning in the role, bringing the drop-dead beauty and heart to the part that makes you believe all the men in the film would change their lives to be with her. And so many do.

Liotta hasn’t lost a beat playing a gangster from his role in “Goodfellas” 30+ years ago, he’s terrific.

Billy Magnussen (No Time To Die) is unrecognizable in the makeup for his role as Paulie Walnuts, John Magaro is a hilarious young Silvio but the true find is James Gandolfini’s son Michael in the role of young Tony.

This isn’t stunt casting with Michael getting the role just because his dad in real-life played Tony. I was worried this would be Sofia Coppola in “Godfather III” all over again, but Michael is very good in the part, showing many of the same expressions, body language and explosiveness that only DNA can deliver.

Chase has said that he had no desire to do a sequel or prequel to one of the greatest TV shows of all time, but that he missed writing these characters and felt there was plenty to mine in the formative years before the show’s timeline.

That passion shines through in the film. Director Alan Taylor directed many of the series best episodes and he and Chase offer up two hours that feel like two new, long-lost episodes of the original series.

Chase also offers up enough Easter eggs throughout to keep you on your toes as you glimpse locations and moments that reference the future. Some are front and center, some are much more subtle.

The music choices are perfect. The violence explodes in graphic, bloody scenes that often rise unexpectedly. The tangled family drama is deep, sometimes hilarious, and often tragic. Chase hasn’t lost his touch.

Welcome back Sopranos, we’ve missed you.

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK gets an A.

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