REVIEW / FILM OPINION – Almost fifteen years after the end of “The Sopranos”, iconic characters from David Chase’s cult series are back in “Many Saints of Newark”. A prequel which, however, prefers to focus on another New Jersey legend, the gangster Dickie Moltisanti.
Many Saints of Newark : a risky bet
How to succeed a program considered rightly as one of the best series of all time, and more generally as a masterpiece of popular culture? From the outset, the filiation between The Sopranos and Many Saints of Newark – A History of the Sopranos does not play in favor of the feature film. Beyond the weight of the name, the question of the relevance of the format arises.
One of the characteristics of Soprano is to spread his story with perfect coherence over six seasons, to open up avenues and develop intrigues over several episodes, even if it means leaving them in suspense to come back to them much later. This singular writing greatly contributes to the richness of the series. She creates a real bond with the viewer by trusting her attention and her attachment to the characters. It makes it innovative and seems extremely difficult to reproduce, in particular over a period of two hours.
Many Saints of Newark begin in 1967. Family soldier DiMeo, “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) grows his influence on New Jersey. However, several events disrupt its activities. The first is the return to the United States of her father “Hollywood Dick” (Ray Liotta), accompanied by his young Italian wife Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi). No longer supporting the outbursts of violence from his father, Dickie also has a hard time hiding his attraction to his partner. At the same time, clashes between the authorities and the African-American community put the city of Newark on fire after a police blunder. Riots that disrupt the relationship between Dickie and Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), whom he employs to do his dirty work.
Like father, like son
Many Saints of Newark opens on a scene which immediately plunges the spectator into the inevitability of Soprano. In a cemetery tarnished by greyness, several voices resound. They remember their life as the camera moves between the graves, before arriving at that of Christopher Moltisanti. The gangster played by Michael Imperioli briefly reconsiders his fate before introducing the story of his father Dickie, a highly respected figure and regularly mentioned in the series, but enigmatic.
Despite their anecdotal side, outside of this openness, Christopher’s interventions support the fact that he is only the carbon copy of a father whom he has known very little. Rather than playing on the appearances of iconic characters like Paulie (Billy Magnussen), Silvio (John Magaro) or Pussy (Samson Moeakiola), the film remains mainly focused on Dickie.
This allows him to find your own identity in the universe of Soprano, to avoid drowning in the fan service while making the junction with the cult series. Dickie makes the same mistakes his son made, doesn’t resist his most primal instincts, and then feels remorseful, torn between the desire to do well and the ability to take a life without blinking.
During a fleeting but particularly touching moment, the criminal comes to his senses in a prison parlor, sitting alone at a table. A return to reality during which the excellent Alessandro Nivola recalls the absences of Michael Imperioli, while bringing depth to his character. This subtle connection (unlike some heavy dialogue), as well as other outbursts and moments of loneliness of Dickie, amplifies the tragic dimension of the fresco created by David Chase.
Preserving a part of mystery
And Tony in all of this? Discreet, reserved and fascinated by his uncle Dickie, the future boss is sufficiently withdrawn to, again, give the possibility to Many Saints of Newark to move away a little from the shadow of his big sister and leave the part of mystery that the protagonist deserves. Interpreted by William Ludwig during childhood then by Michael Gandolfini (son of the late James Gandolfini) in adolescence, it proves above all that his son Anthony is also the spitting image of his father.
Screenwriters David Chase and Lawrence Konner manage to make him an essential but secondary character. This is also the case for Junior (Corey Stoll), as well as Johnny (Jon Bernthal) and Livia Soprano (Vera …