For many, following in your parents footsteps means being inspired to pursue a career in the same field. “The Many Saints of Newark” exhibits a case of someone literally following in his father’s footsteps by taking up the iconic mantle of Tony Soprano, but younger.
“The Many Saints of Newark” is a prequel film based on David Chase’s hit HBO show, “The Sopranos.” Over 14 years since the final episode aired on HBO, the film was released on Oct. 1 in theaters and on HBO Max to stream at home. For any Sopranos fan, this two hour film is packed with nostalgic moments, whether it is an interaction between two characters or something only referenced in the original series.
The film stars Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony Soprano. If that name sounds familiar, it should: He is the son of the late James Gandolfini, who played the infamous mobster for eight years. This prequel follows a narration from Christopher Moltisanti, a prominent character from the original show, describing his father Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti and his rise to power in the DiMeo crime family in Newark.
In the film we meet some more popular characters such as Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano, played by Vera Farmiga, as well as his father, Johnny Soprano, played by John Bernthal, a Junior Soprano, played by Corey Stoll, a young Paulie Walnuts, played by Billy Magnussen, even new characters like twins played by Ray Liotta, Hollywood Dick and Sally Moltisanti. There is even a cameo role from stand up comic Joey “Coco” Diaz. About half of these characters were in the original series, collecting protection money or breaking legs.
The film opens in 1967 with the return of Hollywood Dick from a trip to Italy where he met the lovely Giuseppina, played by Michela Di Rossi. Dickie, his son, is quick to take a liking to her. Hollywood Dick begins to abuse her, verbally and even physically by throwing her down a flight of stairs. This leads to an altercation between the father and son that ends with the death of Hollywood Dick. His death is made to look like it happened during the 1967 Newark Riots.
The chaos in the city reflects the chaos within Dickie’s own life. He even has an intense time attempting to evade the crowds and has something thrown at him while he is driving. After this goes down and they hold the funeral service, Dickie is quick in building his own empire. Visiting with his fathers twin, uncle Sally, in prison, he talks to him about his father, the crime life and even music. You can see one of the records he brings is an album by Joe Pesci.
About halfway through the film is when we get to see him, Michael Gandolfini, playing Tony Soprano as a teenager getting in trouble at school, events that were often referenced often in the show. In one nostalgic scene, Tony and some of his friends, notably Artie Bucco, jump an ice cream truck driver, steal the truck and give the ice cream to kids for free. This sequence is reminiscent of the very first episode of “The Sopranos”, when Tony and Chris chase down a gambler who owes Tony some money. It is not all fun and games, but the energy that both Gandolfinis put into their character is uncannily similar.
Fans of the original series will enjoy this film and all its menagerie of familiar characters. If you have not seen “The Sopranos” before, some scenes may contain references that will go right over your head or even feel out of place, making the film a bit confusing.