Review: James Gandolfini's son as young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark

Scheming and double-crossing, black humour and mobsters — much here for the Sopranos fan to enjoy
Review: James Gandolfini's son as young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark

The Many Saints of Newark

★★★

Arguably the greatest TV drama series of all time, The Sopranos gets a belated origins tale in the shape of The Many Saints of Newark (16s), in which the young Tony Soprano is played as a child by William Ludwig and as a teenager by Michael Gandolfini, the son of James Gandolfini, who so memorably played the original Tony Soprano. Surprisingly, perhaps, the film is less concerned with young Tony himself than it is with the adults who shaped him, which include his constantly warring mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) and father Johnny Boy (Jon Bernthal), but especially his ‘uncle’, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the mobster who takes Tony under his wing. It’s no wonder, then, that the adult Tony was obliged to seek psychiatric help: where a conventional crime thriller might evolve as a battle for an impressionable young man’s soul, Tony’s mentor, Dickie, is only a little less brutal than his father, Johnny Boy, in part because Dickie’s own father, ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), is himself an old-school mobster steeped in violence.

Michael Gandolfini: The Many Saints of Newark 
Michael Gandolfini: The Many Saints of Newark 

Although written by Sopranos’ creator David Chase and directed by Alan Taylor, who directed a number of Sopranos episodes, The Many Saints of Newark employs broad strokes instead of the psychological and narrative nuances of the TV series. Had the story focussed on the complex and conflicted Dickie Moltisanti, with Alessandro Nivola in career-best form, it would likely have been a triumph; but in flitting back and forth between Dickie and the considerably less interesting teenage Tony, the story constantly interrupts its flow and momentum. There’s much here for the Sopranos fan to enjoy — the middle-aged Junior (Corey Stoll) scheming and double-crossing, Vera Farmiga in operatic form as the embittered Livia, a blackly humorous choice for the voiceover narration — but The Many Saints of Newark is a solid rather than spectacular mobster movie. (cinema release)

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