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Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark is ‘welcome return’ to old favourites

The Sopranos creator David Chase helms prequel film The Many Saints of Newark starring James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK – Official Trailer – Warner Bros. UK & Ireland

The Many Saints of Newark

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Just how do you follow up the greatest television drama of all time?

Well, The Sopranos creator David Chase chose not to move beyond the ambiguous ending of the show and instead goes backwards in time to delve into the past of Tony Soprano and those closest to him.

Set primarily in the 1960s, The Many Saints of Newark follows the story of Tony Soprano’s father figure and personal hero, gangster Dickie Moltisanti ( Alessandro Nivola ).

Amid the personal and criminal struggles of Dickie, Newark becomes engulfed by racial tensions reaching a furious boiling point as riots break out.

Set for a collision course with Dickie is his ambitious African-American associate Harold McBrayer (Lamar Odom Jr.), but will either survive the chaos to come?



Alessandro Nivola is at the centre of the film as Dickie Moltistanti
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YouTube/Warner Bros. UK & Ireland)




Meanwhile, Dickie’s nephew Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) matures and finds himself facing choices about the kind of lifestyle he will pursue and whether he will follow in Dickie’s footsteps.

At a lengthy two-and-a-half hours, David Chase packs in a great deal of character and story – enough perhaps for a limited series instead – but ultimately ensures the film is anchored in a trio of strong performances.

Alessandro Nivola offers a turn of true star quality that recalls Hollywood legends of yesteryear as the charismatic, conflicted and fierce anti-hero Dickie. This really is Dickie’s journey above all else and you almost wish you had more time with the character.



Leslie Odom Jr. as Dickie’s friend and later rival, Harold McBrayer
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YouTube/Warner Bros. UK & Ireland)






James Gandolfini’s son Michael as a young Tony Sopranos
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YouTube/Warner Bros. UK & Ireland)




Meanwhile, the ever-talented Odom Jr. also offers a vital parallel view on a generation revered in The Sopranos itself by laying bare the inequalities, prejudice and the struggles of Harold and his peers.

Vitally, Michael Gandolfini is hauntingly good as a young Tony Soprano, bringing a sensitivity well beyond his years and capturing an inner sadness akin to his legendary father James Gandolfini in his iconic performance as the character in adulthood. Make no mistake, though, Tony is a supporting player here but a fascinating one nonetheless.

In fact, the entire ensemble cast is an embarrassment of riches with some wonderful casting for younger versions of older characters from the series. Special mentions should go out to Corey Stol l as a measured and seemingly passive Uncle Junior, a hilarious Joe Magaro as the ever-expressive Silvio Dante, and a theatrical but brutal turn from Vera Farmiga as Tony’s toxic but unhappy mother, Livia Soprano.



Vera Farmiga as Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano
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YouTube/Warner Bros. UK & Ireland)






Corey Stoll as Corrado “Junior” Soprano Jr.
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YouTube/Warner Bros. UK & Ireland)




Relative newcomer Michela De Rossi is also a vibrant leading lady as Giuseppina Bruno, the new bride of Dickie’s father (played by the ever-reliable Ray Liotta ), who becomes a catalyst for conflict and, ultimately, violent murder.

Additionally, Chase tackles a number of themes in his script that viewers of The Sopranos will be well-versed in. Examinations of familial expectations, faith, the American experience, temptation, Oedipal tensions, and the power of confession are all rife throughout.

As with the series that preceded it, The Many Saints of Newark is not an action-packed gangster epic so some viewers may be disappointed to find a myriad of family-based subplots, quiet conversations and moody introspection.

Yet the secret to The Sopranos’ success was its turning ideas of the gangster genre on its head somewhat, thus making this outing no different.



The gangster world of The Sopranos makes a bloody but welcome return
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Considering the complicated web of characters, issues and stories at play, one will likely question whether this would have been better as a longer form of storytelling on the smaller screen.

Regardless, Chase has created a prequel that offers an intriguing standalone tale in its own right but one that is also littered with fan service including some immortal lines, character cameos (including with a ghostly narration) and one timeless theme song.

Ultimately, it’s just a treat to return to the world of The Sopranos even if we might have liked to have stayed just that bit longer.

Verdict

The Many Saints of Newark is a thematically rich, well-preformed and busy prequel to The Sopranos that may not be perfect but provides enough satisfaction to fans and newcomers alike.

*The Many Saints of Newark is out now in UK cinemas.


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