By Maya (@oocsopranos)
Twenty-two years after The Sopranos premiered on HBO and became the underpinning of dramatic television as we know it, creator David Chase has picked us up in a burgundy 1999 Chevrolet Suburban, taken us through the Holland Tunnel, onto the New Jersey turnpike back to the DiMeo crime family.
Many Saints of Newark takes place in the 1960s and was sold to the public as a Tony Soprano origin story, telling us how Tony became the Prozac-taking, duck-feeding fat fuck from New Jersey we all know and love. While the origin story sentiment rings true, the film utilizes at least 70% of its screen time teaching us about Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), uncle by marriage to Tony and father to Christopher. At first, It’s unclear why he is so important to Tony’s ultimate dive into organized crime. But David Chase doesn’t miss and in the second half of the movie, the handful of smaller subplots are woven together and you get the “OHHHHH!” moment, and the buildup is worth it. It’s like when your friend lays the groundwork for a juicy story by telling you four mini stories first.
Many Saints of Newark was a perfect amalgamation of the dark, dramatic hour-long drama we were blessed with for the first time in 1999, and the bright, newness of modern television and film. The performances of the cast were phenomenal and uncanny. If you hadn’t seen Sopranos before you saw this, you’d probably think both versions of the characters were played by the same people.The younger versions of our fan favorites, Tony, Paulie, Silvio, Uncle Jun, Big Pussy fit seamlessly with the new characters we were introduced to. Michael Gandolfini put up a performance that would make his father proud, nailing all of Tony’s mannerisms. Their performances were phenomenal and uncanny.
Many Saints of Newark also tackles race relations in a way I was not at all expecting. The film perfectly captured the sociopolitical climate of 1960s Newark and makes these happenings a significant part of the plot. I admire Chase for depicting these times, and how his characters behaved in them, honestly and realistically.
As a media snob and media purist, I am vehemently anti any new reiteration of a popular, beloved television show or movie whose heyday has since passed. Many Saints of Newark set sail on murky waters, as a modern-day prequel of what is one of the greatest television shows of all time. I gotta give it to em, it was fucking fantastic. I will be rewatching it again with my girls, a la the Sopranos women.