Like members of the mafia, trailers can be deceptive – though maybe not as deadly.
"The Many Saints of Newark" is a prequel to the "Sopranos," a TV crime drama that follows the stories of Italian-American mafia families in New Jersey, from Tony Soprano's point of view, that spanned for six seasons from 1999-2007.
For the sake of attracting an audience, Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini who plays Soprano, is primarily featured in the trailer as teenage Tony. But this actually Dickie Moltisanti's story, and for "Sopranos" fans that last name should be familiar: Dickie is Christopher Moltisanti's father and Tony's uncle.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK – Official Trailer www.youtube.com
"Saints" is an entertaining prequel directed by Alan Taylor that welcomes everyone back to the "Sopranos" world, with the same sense of humor, younger versions of beloved characters and sudden yet not-so-surprising whacks. But this story could've benefited as a limited run series.
The pacing for the most part is good, but there are a handful of lulls in which viewers feel the two hours slowly tick by. And at risk of contradicting that statement, this film could also use more time to develop that flow when the story proceeds at a break-neck pace from Tony as a child, to a teenager. Not only are the big events hard to keep track of, but the small moments are hard to decipher, too. It's difficult to tell how much time actually passed between scenes when Tony is a child. So between multiple timeline jumps and major deaths, chapters or episodes would give this story room to breathe.
Plots related to the 1960's race riots in this film are grossly underutilized besides some generic chaos when protestors are looting, staking out a police department or setting fires. It would've been more effective to either create a separate movie about the race riots in the "Sopranos" universe or, yet again, produce a mini series.
The acting was solid despite the younger versions of Paulie (Billy Magnussen) and Silvio (John Magaro) trying a bit too hard to be like their older counterparts. Alessandro Nivola, who plays Dickie, is a standout and absolutely dominates this role. He fits right into this world, and so does Vera Farmiga, who effortlessly plays Livia Soprano, Tony's mom. Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Moltisanti's arm Harold, continues to deliver stellar performances in anything he does including "Saints."
This story is likely more enjoyable for people who have knowledge of the "Sopranos," especially because they try so hard to make not-so-subtle nods and references to the original show. But for those who know little to nothing about the "Sopranos," it'll be challenging to follow.