The Many Saints of Newark (2021)

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

My husband and I were about halfway through The Many Saints of Newark when I suddenly slapped my forehead and cried out, “‘Many saints’! Moltisanti!” Long-suffering Hubby just shook his head at me and sighed. The Many Saints of Newark is, indeed, the story of fictional mobster Dickie Moltisanti, and serves as a prequel to the action of the TV show The Sopranos. It is a real treat for viewers like Hubby who are both fans of the show and quick on the uptake. Even I enjoyed it, despite being neither a Sopranos aficionado nor a quick study.

The plot is standard mob-movie fare: Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) is a low-level member of the DiMeo crime family in Newark in the 1960s. His father, Hollywood Dick (Ray Liotta) Moltisanti, brings home a young and luscious new wife (Michela De Rossi) from Italy. Lust for power, money, and sex drives Dickie to ever-worsening actions. Watching it all is his young nephew, Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini). The future boss wants to play it straight, but he idolizes his uncle and starts moving dangerously closer to a life of crime.

Undoubtedly, the best part of The Many Saints of Newark is spotting all the Sopranos references. Some of them are obvious, even for me–young guns Silvio Dante and Paulie Gualtieri are hilariously accurate copies of their future selves. Vera Farmiga delivers the best acting in the film with her note-perfect rendition of the hectoring Livia Soprano. And Michael Gandolfini, real-life son of the late James Gandolfini who won three Emmy awards portraying Tony Soprano, looks and moves so much like his dad it brought tears to my eyes.

Other references are more like Easter eggs, only apparent to the truly devoted fans. As the characters on-screen discussed young Tony’s likelihood of making the varsity football team in the fall, my husband whispered to me, “He never had the makings of a varsity athlete”–a quotable line from Tony’s Uncle Junior in the original show. Just then, the 1960s version of Uncle Junior intoned, “He doesn’t have the makings of a varsity athlete.” Darling Hubby actually squealed with delight.

The ending of The Many Saints of Newark involves a great twist, and yet more references. When the first notes of the Sopranos theme song come up with the credits, the viewer is satisfied with the past and primed for the future–even though we already know what happens. Hubby has already floated the idea of rewatching the entire run of The Sopranos, and I just might join him this time.

Located in Adult DVDs (DVD MANY)

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