WARNING: Minor Spoilers.
The US reviews for The Many Saints of Newark, the big-screen Sopranos prequel, were lukewarm, and I was reticent in seeing it. But bada bing, I enjoyed it, quite a lot. It’s full of richly evocative late 1960s / early 1970s US urban period ambiance, it’s nicely shot (looking great on the huge screen I saw it on at Event Cinemas in the Sydney CBD) and the acting is a lot of fun. I also found the story compelling. But here’s the thing (and the reason, I think, mild disappointment surrounds the film): it’s not really Tony Soprano’s ‘origin’ story. It’s the story of his uncle Dickie, played very well by Alessandro Nivola. Young Tony is in it, as a child and a teenager, but he really doesn’t do much of anything at all. He’s an observer in Dickie’s movie. And I enjoyed Dickie’s movie.
The story revolves around the tension between the established Italian crime bosses in Newark and the rising opposition of Black gangsters. It’s exciting and the dialogue is witty. Vera Farmiga, as Livia, is the standout among those playing established characters from the series; the most exciting new character is a young Italian woman brought over to Newark and into the family, played passionately and cleverly by Michela De Rossi. Ray Liotta also has a couple of delicious roles.
It’s a fun, well crafted period mob story. Enjoy it as such; but if you’re hoping to see Tony’s blooding, you may well be very disappointed.