By Veronica Carbonell // Contributing Writer
The long-awaited prequel to critically acclaimed, award winning HBO show, “The Sopranos,” is finally hitting theaters Oct. 1 with an HBO Max release scheduled for later that month.
Sorry to disappoint long-time fans of the show, but “The Many Saints of Newark” doesn’t actually revolve around a young Tony Soprano played by the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini.
Instead, the film centers around his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola. A young Tony idolized his uncle dearly and he in many ways was the one who made Tony Soprano the memorable character we know.
The film chronicles Dickie’s life as a mobster and the trouble he faces, as well as the strong bond shared between uncle and nephew.
Nivola said that likely the greatest tragedy of the film is that despite the two characters being so close, Tony never truly got to know the real Dickie and how he was unravelling emotionally and physically. Had Tony known, he might have gone down a very different path.
The film begins in 1967 Newark, New Jersey where crime is at an all-time high and the mob runs the city. Unlike most mob movies, “Many Saints” has the civil rights movement serve as a backdrop with scenes that showcases police brutality and rioting as a response.
In a new era of mob movies, this addition shows the other side of the city that has nothing to do with mafiosos or Italian Americans.
When asked about the racist language used to accurately portray the time period and the disconnect between both groups, Galdofini said, ”Silence and not talking about the issues is so harmful. You see these riots and then the Soprano family never once touches upon it because it doesn’t affect them. They are extremely sheltered.”
One of the film’s main characters, Harold McBreyer, played by “Hamilton’s” Leslie Odom Jr., is a gangster who works for Dickie. He carries the movie with an extremely layered performance, and greatly holds his own with acting greats like Ray Liotta, who plays Dickie’s father, Aldo.
Another performance includes Vera Farmiga, known for TV show “Bates Motel” and “The Conjuring” film series, who plays Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano.
Long-time fans of the “The Sopranos” know how incredibly pivotal she is to Tony’s upbringing and was actually a main character on the show for a few seasons.
However, based on how the show depicted Tony’s difficult and estranged relationship with his mother, the movie does very little to showcase this, even in scenes where the two are alone.
Though the movie does not revolve around Tony’s life specifically, it was still definitely a missed opportunity to further explore a relationship that was so important to the eight season show.
Nonetheless, with a role as iconic as Tony Soprano, there are undoubtedly very big shoes to fill, especially when the role was played by your own father.
Gandolifini said that he tried to focus on the role by thinking about it in “bite-sized chunks.”
“I tried not to think about it too much. Thinking too hard about portraying such an iconic role would’ve been too overwhelming,” he states.
He added that playing a character originated by his father gave him so much pride as an actor and gave him a newfound respect for all that he had accomplished.
Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, “The Many Saints of Newark” is definitely worth a trip to the movies and a beautiful homage from a son to his late father.