Review: Michael Gandolfini Follows In His Father’s Footsteps As The Young Tony Soprano In ‘The Many Saints Of Newark’
Stars: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta, Michael Gandolfini
New Line Cinema’s “The Many Saints of Newark” is the much-anticipated feature film prequel to David Chase’s groundbreaking, award-winning HBO drama series “The Sopranos.” Young Anthony Soprano is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities—and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.
As someone who hadn’t see the TV show I was looking for a lead in to the story of Tony Soprano, and origin story that could set up the ground breaking television series for me. This Sopranos story though lands between a dysfunctional family reunion and, a refresher for fans of who was your favourite character. Either way, it’s subtly entertaining. The story depicts a portrait of the formative figures in the life of the young Tony Soprano, who are more known to the fans of the show rather then for newbies. The most talked about casting of this movie was debutant Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late James Galdolfini, who played Tony in the TV series, and as outstanding as his acting was, I felt Tony’s story was left on the sidelines a bit.
The young Tony displays a small handful of delinquent tendencies. As a kid, he organizes a numbers racket at his school. He ignores his schoolwork and gets lousy grades, and he and his friends hijack an ice cream truck and take it for a joyride. Yet beneath those troublesome tendencies, what’s intriguing about the characterization of Tony is how troubled yet hopeful innocent kid he actually is. What’s touching, at certain points, are the signs we get of just how badly Tony wants to be good, and the bond he has with members in his own family. He has grown up in a mobster’s family, and in a sense, he has always breathed the air of violence. So naturally your also inclined to taking the same path.
The high point of the film is the performances. Alessandro Nivola as Dickie carries the film with a wide range of conflicting emotions, as he is often torn between helping and hurting those closest to him. Michael Gandolfini similarly breathes new life into the character his father made famous. Vera Farmiga explores the character Livia Soprano, and without a doubt Farmiga steals every scene she’s in with her spot-on performance of the victimized mob wife. Her interactions with Gandolfini give viewers a window into the relationship Tony and his mother could’ve had.
Prequels are often doomed by the success of their source material, leaving fans with impossible expectations and creators with the pressure to execute at the highest level. “The Many Saints of Newark” was marketed as an origin story of Tony Soprano, but delivered a pleasant mobster film. This isn’t a Tony Soprano story — it’s a Sopranos story. Keep that in mind and you’ll be ultimately pleased by a mob movie that the creators have produced.
‘The Many Saints Of Newark’ is out now courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.