So, although it’s quite difficult to summarize the overall appeal of the movie, I feel obligated for the sake of the review to try: even as its storytelling chafes at the edges of its cinematic constraints, The Many Saints of Newark proves The Sopranos‘ allure is still powerful, despite the fact this movie may feel really less like a prequel and more like a spin-off, and regardless of how boring it may occasionally be. Ultimately, for viewers without a Sopranos connection, it may seem long and riddled with unnecessary secondary characters and tertiary subplots. There’s enough uncertainty regarding the fates of some of the characters that even a seasoned Sopranos viewer will never feel completely sure of where the story is going. One thing for certain is that you should probably be a Sopranos fan in order to grasp most of what you see in this picture.
The Many Saints Of Newark is set in the explosive era of the Jersey riots, when rival gangsters began to rise up, challenging the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the city. The film revolves around the life of young Anthony Soprano, a simple kid growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history. Becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rebel and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo clan’s hold over the increasingly race-torn town, the world of organized crime unfolds around him. In the middle of all these changing times is his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti, who he idolizes, and whose influence eventually shapes the impressionable boy into the subsequent, all-powerful mob boss, Tony Sporano. The Many Saints of Newark spans roughly a half-decade of time, starting in 1967 and concluding in the early 1970s. As if the music, hairstyles, fashions and cars aren’t enough to fasten the date, the first half of the movie happens in and around the Newark race riots, which occurred between July 12-17, 1967. What’s most noteworthy for film fans is that although Michael Gandolfini, the actual son of passed James Gandolfini, might be convincing as a bright, sensitive kid born into a family of criminals and killers, he’s not the focus of this film. While he may be a focal point of the plot, The Many Saints of Newark is mainly about the life of organized crime and those affected by it – both criminals and “saints” alike.
There is plenty of violence in this Sopranos prequel, and that said violence is not only a treat for its target audience, but also illustrates the fragility of life amongst “gangsters” during the depicted era. However, it must be noted that this is not the type of graphic form shown by other gangster film directors. Most of the deaths occur with brutal suddenness – a characteristic of the trademark TV series, yet not one of the classic mob movie genre. For the sake of summarizing my point, I’ll hammer it home by saying that anyone who wants to see this film, shouldn’t expect a Goodfellas or The Godfather experience.
The ultimate summary for this flick is that although it may fall short for die-hard fans, and may be quite overly complex for newbies, The Many Saints of Newark is still a solid movie and worth the price of admission. The acting is credible, the cinematography is captivatingly subtle, and the directing is as good as it gets. Just remember where you come from when entering the theatre – because it just might dictate how well you comprehend the overall feature.