The Many Saints of Newark is nearly here, and early reviews are praising the Sopranos prequel. The film stars Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony Soprano, Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti, and a supporting ensemble that includes Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga, Billy Magnussen, and Michela De Rossi. The Many Saints of Newark releases in theaters and for streaming on HBO Max on October 1, 2021.
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the late 1960s, The Many Saints of Newark tells the story of how Tony Soprano started his journey to becoming the ruthless mob boss seen in The Sopranos. Set against the backdrop of growing racial unrest in the city, the film focuses largely on Dickie – Christopher Moltisanti’s father – who becomes a mentor to Tony in the world of crime. The film is written by Sopranos creator David Chase and directed by Alan Taylor, who also worked extensively on the original series.
Because The Sopranos is universally heralded as one of the greatest TV shows ever, expectations have been high for The Many Saints of Newark. Fortunately, it looks like the film may actually meet them. Early reviews for the movie are in, and critics are generally responding quite positively to the film, though some have been a bit more lukewarm. Check out what the early reviews for The Many Saints of Newark are saying below.
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent (UK)
“The Many Saints of Newark is both instantly recognisable and somehow unplaceable. It’s fierce and brilliant, too – a work that both expands on and complicates The Sopranos’s cultural legacy.”
Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph (UK)
“Sinewy and smart, it’s a rich imaginative leap into the pre-history of an iconic show, and a rare instance of the big screen doing right by the small.”
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Saints can’t be what Sopranos was – without the time or the ones who’ve been lost to tell it, fuggedaboutit. But for a hundred-something minutes, it feels close enough to coming home again.”
David Erlich, IndieWire
“If “The Many Saints of Newark” is divided against itself to a certain degree, its script unsure as to how much of it only exists to help shape teenage Tony, the young Gandolfini brings such primacy to the character that every scene he’s in feels naturally formative.”
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“We want “The Many Saints of Newark” to spin a good yarn, and for the most part it does.”
Jake Cole, Slant Magazine
“The juxtapositions between backroom politicking, intimate family drama, and the occasional lurches into action often give the impression of a TV season’s worth of content crammed into two hours.”
Dan Callahan, TheWrap
“The new characters are all one-dimensional, and we learn nothing new about the old characters from the series.”
Charlotte O’Sullivan, London Evening Standard
“Casually important, traumatically enjoyable, The Many Saints of Newark is a tale of the unexpected that will cause cineastes, as well as life-long couch potatoes, to cry hallelujah.”
Overall, the consensus on The Many Saints of Newark seems to be quite positive, with the film currently holding a 79 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A number of critics have praised it for recapturing some of the magic that made the original Sopranos series so successful, and Gandolfini seems to be perfect as the young Tony — a role his own father, James Gandolfini, played in the show. For many Sopranos fans, that will probably be more than enough to justify the price of a ticket.
Still, the new film isn’t without its detractors. Some have criticized it for adding little of note to the lore of The Sopranos, and others say it leaves some of its most interesting ideas and storylines unexplored. There’s a recurring theory that The Many Saints of Newark is being used to test interest in a full-blown Sopranos prequel series on HBO, or at least another movie to follow this one. It’s clearly leaving viewers wanting even more, but all in all, it seems that The Many Saints of Newark still delivers plenty on its own merits.