I’ll be upfront with you and say that I have never seen an episode of The Sopranos. That being said, I am well aware of the clout the HBO series has among television greatness. The Many Saints of Newark acts as a prequel to the series so for those like me who haven’t seen it before, the film works as an introduction into its world of crime. Sure, you might not get its numerous references and details, but you won’t be lost either. The Many Saints of Newark is the best of both worlds as it works well on its own as a mobster movie, all while living up to the pressure of its namesake.
Set in the 60s and 70s, The Many Saints of Newark follows a young Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) as he grows up on the city streets and learns about the family business from his uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who he idolizes. Tensions are high and Dickie is doing whatever means are necessary to stay at the top. In this business, nobody is safe.
Even though the film is an introduction to Tony Soprano, the real star and focus is on Dickie. He’s back from doing time in jail and already making headway moving up the ladder of crime. What The Many Saints of Newark shows is that in this type of business, nothing is everlasting. Characters come and go frequently as evident by the multiple funerals Tony attends over the years. Marriages end. Weddings happen. At a glance, that all might seem pretty typical of life in general, but being in the gangster business puts it all on fast forward. Everything happens so quickly and so frequently; there’s no time for any calmness. As soon as someone is out of the picture, there are five more people angling to take their place. The Many Saints of Newark captures the chaos, delivering an exciting and thrilling flashback to Soprano’s early life.
And there’s no one better to take up the mantle than Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini who made Tony Soprano a household name. As a young kid, there’s still an innocence to Tony but it quickly gets taken away bit by bit as the movie goes on and you can see how he has a knack for the same unsavory lifestyle his uncle lives, just on a smaller scale. He’s not the crime boss people know. Not yet, at least. The Many Saints of Newark does a good job at planting those seeds.
The Sopranos is king when it comes to crime stories, and The Many Saints of Newark does a great job at living up to that title. As someone who hasn’t seen the original series, the film is a fantastic introduction, laying the groundwork for what’s to follow. I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy it that much more with all the little details that someone like me would miss out on. Still, perhaps what the film does best is give me the urge to finally start watching The Sopranos and see what I’ve been missing out on.
The Many Saints of Newark acts as a prequel to the series so for those like me who haven’t seen it before, the film works as an introduction into its world of crime. Sure, you might not get its numerous references and details, but you won’t be lost either. The Many Saints of Newark is the best of both worlds as it works well on its own as a mobster movie, all while living up to the pressure of its namesake.