TV series crossovers into the world of films has a notoriously chequered history and even the finest shows have stumbled with The Office inspired movie Life on the Road being the most recent example. The Sopranos ran from 1999 to 2007 and is still widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of television writing and a movie was long touted and The Many Saints of Newark is that film albeit a prequel. That its star, James Gandolfini passed away in 2013 and that the series ended on a still debated ambiguous ending made a prequel a necessity and it’s his real life son Michael who plays a young Tony Soprano in the film that makes it so fitting.
Opening with a camera prowling through the family graveyard with voiceovers from the deceased and it’s the voice of a dead man that tops and tails Set in the sixties and seventies the lead character is Dickie Moltisanti (which means Many Saints) played by Alessandro Nivola and fans of the series will know that he was long dead when the show began. Tony Soprano is the teenage nephew who looks on Dickie as something of a father figure when his own father ends up in the Big House doing time. In the TV show Tony has moved out to the suburbs but here he is growing up in an area a stones throw from where racial tensions have exploded into riots and looting.
Dickie presents himself as a decent man amongst the corruption and racketeering the family run but it is a thin mask he wears that easily slips notably in a scene with Hollywood Dick, (not a Harvey Weinstein type character) but his father played by Ray Liotta on tremendous form . The violence in The Many Saints of Newark grows ever more serious with one of the Moltisanti enforcers Harold (Lester Odon Jr) tired of his lowly position collecting extortion money and enduring casual racism from his employers. Enthused by the black power Harold movement decides to start up his own enforcement racket in a memorable montage set to, ‘the Revolution will not be Televised’ on the soundtrack. For the Moltisanti their empire is built on an illusion of white supremacy but trying to maintain its equilibrium whilst vendettas gnaw away at the foundations so it’s inevitable that it will fall.
For fans of the TV series there’s a lot to enjoy here in David Chase’s script but not at the expense of those new to The Sopranos. Some may be disappointed that Tony Soprano as a teen is not front and centre as the trailer suggests but a superb TV series now has an almost equally good film
Here’s the trailer for The Many Saints of Newark…….