The Many Saints Of Newark
Stars: Alessandro Nivola, Ray Liotta, Michael Gandolfini, Vera Farmiga, Leslie Odom Jr, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, John Magaro, Michela De Rossi
While not an essential addition to canon, this prequel to TV’s ‘The Sopranos’ has enough going on to warrant a revisit (previsit?).
It begins in the late 60s where New Jersey gangster Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola), uncle to Tony and future father of Christopher is meeting his mob boss father Aldo ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti (a gruesomely overbearing Liotta) off the boat from Italy where he has just procured a beautiful young wife Giuseppina (De Rossi). In a curious move, Michael Imperioli’s Christopher narrates events from beyond the grave ‘Sunset Boulevard’-style.
Business is complicated when one of Dickie’s henchman Harold (Odom Jr), fired up by the Black Power movement, decides he doesn’t want to work for him anymore. Dickie also develops feelings for his beautiful new stepmother and becomes increasingly agitated at his father’s treatment of her.
Jump to the mid-70 where the black community are violently rising up against their oppressors on both sides of the law, and Dickie is deliberating whether or not to distance himself from his favourite nephew Tony (Gandolfini, the late James’ son) in order to discourage him being seduced by the gangster lifestyle.
The sprawling tale, scripted by Soprano’s creator David Chase, juggles a few too many characters and probably would have worked better over series length. Odom Jr’s Harold in particular provides a fresh new perspective, but his plot thread gets a little lost in the mix.
The direction by Taylor, who helmed several episodes of the series, is fairly perfunctory, and the design standard period crime fare with a bleached-out grainy photography deployed to convey the seedy 70s. The soundtrack needles drops verge on the overfamiliar with Gil Scott Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be televised’ getting an umpteenth outing.
There’s much pleasure to be had in seeing the younger incarnations of characters though: Gandolfini uncannily channels the young Tony’s bruised sensitivity, while Vera Farmiga as his monstrous mum Livia effectively moots the manipulative self-pitying woman we loved to hate. Corey Stoll is very droll as Uncle Jr perfectly capturing his socially inept perpetually grumbling mien. Jo Magaro’s fidgety Silvio, alas, feels like a character from a Saturday Night Live’ sketch.
The Many Saints of Newark is released 24th September
Follow David on @DWil_Crackfilm