Starring: Michael Gandolfini, Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr.
Director: Alan Taylor
Running Time: 120 mins
The Many Saints Of Newark is an American film about the teenage years of Tony Soprano, the atmosphere of tension after the race riots of 1967, and the mafia career of Tony’s uncle, who inspired his own rise.
Despite its links with a celebrated TV series, there’s not all that much to write home about with The Many Saints Of Newark. While its nods to The Sopranos may spark a few smiles from long-term fans, as a standalone gangster film, this is a rather forgettable affair.
I’ll preface all this with saying that I’ve never seen The Sopranos. I’m pretty sure I understand the basic outline of the show, but I can’t say that I will have been able to pick up the more poignant references throughout this film.
So, I’ll reserve judgment on The Many Saints Of Newark for how it pays tribute to The Sopranos, but even if you haven’t seen the TV show before, then this film is still watchable, with only a few details out of reach.
However, in contrast with the legendary calibre of The Sopranos, The Many Saints Of Newark is an extremely ordinary film. There are few standout moments, little emotionally gripping drama, and the screenplay feels largely aimless for the first two acts.
While we see a young Tony Soprano on the sidelines of the Newark mob, this film is much more about his uncle, played by Alessandro Nivola, who ultimately inspired Tony to become a mobster and follow in his family’s footsteps.
For the most part, however, Tony’s uncle isn’t the most interesting character. Apart from a couple of shocking moments which use violence to good effect, this film’s main personality is fairly underwhelming, with Nivola giving a fairly uncharismatic performance that does little to enamour you any more.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t character depth here, but it’s spread out quite thinly over the course of a two hour story, with few moments that really dive deep and offer an emotionally resonant account of the world that Tony grew up in, with equally half-hearted links to the atmosphere of racial tension in Newark in the 1960s and ’70s.
As a result, The Many Saints Of Newark comes off as a fairly underwhelming standalone mob movie. I can’t say how well it plays into the events of The Sopranos, or how it adds to the series’ lore, but I can say that on its own, it’s a rather unspectacular watch. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8 overall.