Review: The Many Saints of Newark (2021)

The Many Saints of Newark (2021)

Directed by: Alan Taylor | 120 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, Michela De Rossi, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michael Imperioli, Samson Moeakiola, Joey Diaz, Germar Terrell Gardner, Alexandra Intrator Gabriella Piazza, Mason Bleu, Aaron Joshua, Lesli Margherita, Talia Balsam, Kathryn Kates

Even before ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ was even written on paper, it was compared to one of the most acclaimed television series of the twenty-first century, ‘The Sopranos’ (David Chase, 1999-2007). This could not be otherwise, because the spiritual father of this TV series wanted to tell a story about Tony Soprano’s adolescence with partly the same crew. Later, as witnessed in more than eighty hours of television, Tony became a rising star within the Italian-American mafia in New Jersey. Without the great James Gandolfini, who almost became identified with the character Tony, but with his son Michael (yes, they look eerily similar) this prequel film just ticks the two-hour mark. A comparison based on quality between the film and series makes no sense. They play in separate leagues. Nevertheless, “The Many Saints of Newark” is a nice addition to the iconic HBO series and is an entertaining mafia drama for those who have never heard of “The Sopranos” before.

So ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ revolves around how young Tony becomes that monstrous fatherly crime king. Not completely, or at least not alone. Here Tony, played reluctantly by the young Gandolfini, is an almost innocent passer-by, a silent witness to a family that has been involved in serious crime for decades. Even though father Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) is in jail, Tony, mother and sisters don’t come up short. In addition, Tony can always get premium beer for his friends and occasionally gets a special gift from a family member, such as a regal hi-fi set. Fallen off the truck, says his favorite uncle Dickie Moltisanti, played with heart by the underappreciated Alessandro Nivola. The young Soprano looks up to Dickie. Even when Tony causes problems at school again, it is this uncle who still manages to keep him on the right track. In addition, Tony is Dickie’s favorite and this nephew must emerge from the shadows of the family and not follow in their footsteps. Ultimately, Dickie and his souls are at the heart of ‘The Many Saints of Newark’.

It sounds like a dime-a-dozen movie, to some extent. Renowned helmsmen like ‘Goodfellas’ (Martin Scorsese, 1990) and ‘The Godfather’ (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) do this well-known crime tune much better and tighter. However, ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ is the prelude to a six-season television story in which not only the soul of a saint and sinner is plucked to the centimeter, but also that of his cradle, the United States. This morning country has always had an obsession with the underworld. More and more often the question arises: to what extent can these two worlds actually be distinguished from each other? While films about the mafia often still draw a clear line, spiritual children of “The Sopranos”, such as “Breaking Bad” (Vince Gilligan, 2008-2013) and “Ozark” (Jason Bateman, 2017-…), are significantly less so. sure of. But what does ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ add to this? Not very much news, not even what you might have suspected in “The Sopranos”.

Although the film is brimming with talent, Chase’s production appears to be mostly unbalanced on the big picture. It takes too many side paths, paths that deserve a TV series in its own right. Race riots in Newark; a young, ambitious immigrant bride (what if Michael Corleone’s Sicilian wife hadn’t been murdered in ‘The Godfather II’?); systematic racism in the United States; and much more. The world chased by Chase and director Alan Taylor is truly overflowing with ideas. Nevertheless, enjoying all these trails and the fan service in ‘The Many Saints of Newark’, it seems like the Star Wars universe. This mosaic approach still makes a lot of good and more ambitious beaches than another ‘Goodfellas’ clone, doesn’t it?

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