Currently in theatres and HBO Max from director Alan Taylor and Warner Bros. is the story of life, death and betrayal when surrounded by THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK.
It is the later 1960’s and Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) is keeping the family business going with numbers running and the help of Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.). Taking care of his own family, he also has an affinity for his nephew Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini), especially when his father Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) is sentenced do a stint in prison.
Also arriving home is Dickie’s father Hollywood Dick (Ray Liotta) and his new wife Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi). As the family business moves along with Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll), everything seems to be moving along, that is until the Newark riots happen, and Harold decides it is time to take his own family business in another direction.
Anthony, in the meantime, is already showing signs of falling into bad habits with gambling and getting into trouble. His mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) turns to Dickie to help get the kid straight being the only person the kid will listen to. But as Anthony grows older, he starts to understand more and more what the family business is and how deadly it can be.
Dickie uses the riots to his advantage when an incident happens with his father and also retaliates for Harold trying to muscle into the family business territory. Now a war is brewing, and Dickie is being pulled in every direction. Turning to his Uncle Salvatore (Ray Liotta) for guidance, the one piece of advice he is given is to leave nephew Anthony alone.
All of this is enough to keep anyone occupied because boiling underneath the surface is revenge, plotting and deception, then again, that’s the family business.
Nivola as Dickie carries this film from start to finish. He is basically a crazy man going from home life to business, family issues, betrayal, and trying to be a good uncle at the same time. He is a jack-of-all-trades in his life and can not seem to master any of them. It all may look good on the surface, but it is an underlying hot mess. Nivola’s character runs hot and cold when his button is pushed and trust that that button – does not lead to a nice conclusion.
Gandolfini as a teen Anthony Soprano does his father’s legacy justice. It is clear that there is a connection between Anthony and Uncle Dickie, a closeness even his father does not have. So, when that relationship is strained, it has an impact on the young teen who is trying to discover where it is he truly wants to go in life. Gandolfini has done his father James Gandolfini proud in taking up the mantle of his own family legacy, well done young man.
Liotta as both Hollywood Dickie and twin brother Salvatore has the chance to play both the good and bad of twin brothers. Dickie turns to Sally for advice and a chance to redeem himself for the wrongs he knows he is doing and has done. I saw Sally as a Sage for Dickie, offering him advice and wisdom that Dickie never got from his own father. Liotta is marvelous in both roles, and I loved every moment he was on screen.
Odom Jr. as Harold is a buddy of Dickie’s so working together is fine, until he realizes that there is more money to be made and that Dickie’s business family see him as nothing more than the lowest of the low. Breaking away is a dangerous move but Odom Jr. takes his character and rolls him in the world that is brutal and unforgiving. Stoll as Junior seems to be the gopher of the family always beings shot down and told what to do. He takes it until he can not take it anymore and lets leave it at that.
Michela De Rossi as Guiseppina is a woman who believed that coming to America has so many possibilities. Trying to break the mold of a kept woman is difficult and she fights every step of the way. Farmiga as Livia is a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown with her kids and a husband who does not appreciate her. Trying to keep her sanity involves Anthony trying to help with medication. She is also a fighter but it seems its always for the right thing in the wrong way.
Other cast include: Joey Diaz as Buddha, Samson Moeakiola as Pussy Bonpensiero, Germar Gardner as Cyril, Alexandra Intrator as Janice Soprano, Lesli Margherita as Iris Balducci, Talia Balsam as Mrs. Jarecki, Kathryn Kates as Angie DeCarlo, William Ludwig as young Tony Soprano, Billy Magnussen as Paulie Walnuts, Nick Vallelonga as Carmine Cotuso, John Magaro as Silvio Dante, Ed Marinaro as Jilly Ruffalo, Lauren DiMario as Carmela De Angelis, Oberon Adjepong as Fran Lucas and Chase Vacnin as Jackie Aprile.
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A little fun factoid is that the film is called ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ because it revolves around Dickie Moltisanti, Christopher Moltisanti’s father. In English, Molti Santi translates as ‘many saints’.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK is a story with so many layers trying to tell a prequel story. The characters are introduced and send about to create havoc but mainly centers around Dickie with a young Tony Soprano on the side. The film has everything you would expect with family issues, prison, revenge, twists and friendships based on nothing more than money and what you can do with it.
I have to again say that I am a huge fan of period pieces and this film dives right in from the costuming to the cars to the look and feel of the city. All of that is important to drawing someone into the world of a family who would go on to bring one of the most talk about shows on television THE SOPRANOS.
That being said, everything moves very fast giving me little time to delve into the stories and understanding each of the characters. I am not sure if that is because I only know a scant bit about the original show having only seen it a few times. So, I am going to have to binge watch the entire series and perhaps my perspective of fast paced and fragmented will change. I will keep you updated!
In the end – it’s a Soprano’s story!