TL;DR – A film punctuated by some fantastic moments, but nevertheless left me feeling more frustrated than anything else.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – This film depicts scenes of abuse.
The Many Saints of Newark Review –
When you are trying to follow up on one of the most successful properties created, a critical darling and well-loved by the public to boot, a lot of weight gets put on every decision. We have seen in recent years all sorts of properties fall under that weight, and I wondered going in if the legacy of The Sopranos would be too great a burden. Well, the answer is yes, but also no.
So to set the scene, it is 1967, and the mafia is making a lot of money out in New Jersey, running number games across the state, especially in Newark. Our narrator Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), introduces us to the two leading players in the story. His father Dickie (Alessandro Nivola) who has taken a young Tony Soprano (William Ludwig) to pick up Dickie’s father, “Hollywood Dick” (Ray Liotta) and his new wife Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi). But the good times of the 1960s are about to come crashing down around them, and not everyone is going to make it out alive.
Now, before we get into the review proper, I do need to make one thing clear. I am coming into this film, having never actually watched The Sopranos. Don’t get me wrong, I know of the show, the basic plot of the show, and of course, the ending. It just aired at a difficult time to watch it when you lived in Australia. So I am writing this from the perspective of those dipping their toes into this world for the first time. On this front, I will say that they have created a framework that while you might not get every cameo and shoutout the film drops, you will follow the story if you have not watched the series.
While this review will probably focus on some of the aspects that didn’t work, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a film with no redeeming features. There are moments in this film where you find your heart in your chest as chaos rains down. When the gunshot ring out and you don’t know who is about to go down. Also, the rapport between Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga) and Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) was such a highlight that you kind of wish that more of the film was devoted to it. It should also be mentioned that the set dressers and costumers should be lauded for getting all those details right.
But while these moments of tension/excitement/gallows humour make the film interesting in places, they can’t make up for all the different factors that just weigh the narrative down. To begin with, you feel that many of the actors felt constrained with presenting the performances from actors from the series. Also, I am not sure what they were doing with Tony (Michael Gandolfini) in that his main personality trait was popping up where he was not wanted. There are also more structural issues, but to talk about that, I do need to discuss [SPOILERS], so if you have not seen the film, you might want to skip the rest of the paragraph. From a pacing perspective, a lot of the film just plods along, which leaves a lot of the film feeling like it is just spinning its tyres waiting for the next funeral. Also, I am not sure that the film put its priorities in the right place, narratively speaking. For example, one of the most artistically presented scenes in the entire movie is a brutal depiction of domestic abuse. Which is a choice, but not one I think they should have made.
In the end, do we recommend The Many Saints of Newark? Well, look, if you are a diehard fan of the series and looking to get another bite at the apple, sure give it a whirl. But if this is your first entry into the world of The Sopranos, maybe give the TV series a look first. If you liked The Many Saints of Newark, I would also recommend to you The Nice Guys.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Many Saints of Newark
Directed by – Alan Taylor
Written by – David Chase & Lawrence Konner
Based on – Characters by David Chase
Music by – Peter Nashel
Cinematography by – Kramer Morgenthau
Edited by – Christopher Tellefsen
Production/Distribution Companies – Chase Films, HBO Films, Home Box Office (HBO), New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring – Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, Michela De Rossi, William Ludwig, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michael Imperioli, Samson Moeakiola, Joey Diaz, Germar Terrell Gardner, Mattea Conforti, Alexandra Intrator, Gabriella Piazza, Lesli Margherita, Talia Balsam, Kathryn Kates, Nick Vallelonga, Patina Miller, Ed Marinaro, Matteo Russo, Robert Vincent Montano, Chase Vacnin, Oberon K.A. Adjepong & Lauren DiMario
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R