Is The Sopranos the greatest HBO original series of all time? That’s certainly debatable. With shows like The Wire, Game of Thrones and Curb Your Enthusiasm in their line up, HBO boasts an impressive television resume. What’s not debatable is that The Sopranos is consistently ranked among the best shows of all time. Viewers are fascinated by the world of organized crime and Hollywood has exploited that fascination for decades, to varying results. The Sopranos was a hit, and a big one. So, why not return to the Italian crime family with a feature film? The Many Saints of Newark tells the story of Tony Soprano and his family in the years that led up to HBO series.
Cast as the young Tony Soprano is Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, who played the role in the HBO series. There’s something special about seeing the young Michael honor the character that his father made famous. He does a stand up job and proves that he earned the role through more than just his last name. Also starring in the film are Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s The Punisher), Alessandro Nivola (The Art of Self Defense) and Ray Liotta (Good Fellas), because, why wouldn’t he be? If there is a gangster or an angry cop to be played, Ray Liotta is throwing his hat into the ring. It’s a top notch cast and everybody pulls their weight.
I must admit before going any further, that I have not watched The Sopranos. I know, I know. It’s been on my list for years. Having said that, there is no denying that this movie was made for fans of the show. There were references and nods to moments and characters that went well above my head, but others in the audience had clearly caught on to. Fans of the show will certainly get more out of their viewing experience, but new comers (such as myself) are still in for an entertaining two hours.
Set in the 60’s and 70’s the film has that old school, effortlessly cool gangster vibe that was perfected by Good Fellas in 1990. Of course that was Martin Scorsese, and there are few who can do the genre better than him. Directing The Many Saints of Newark we have Alan Taylor. I’m not knocking him as a filmmaker, but the last two films he directed were the worst Terminator movie (Terminator Genisys) and the worst MCU movie (Thor: The Dark World). Taylor proves with The Many Saints of Newark that with the right script he can deliver a solid film.
The Many Saints of Newark is likely to end as a forgotten entry in the gangster genre; remembered fondly by die hard Sopranos fan, but not remembered at all by most others. I don’t say this because it’s a bad movie, it’s quite good actually. It just does little to stand out beyond the names and legacy of its characters. It did, however, make me want to finally watch the show that’s been on my list for years, and I think that says something. 7.5/10.