Many Saints of Newark
Dir: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Chase, Lawrence Konner
Starring: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Ray Liotta, Michael Gandolfini
Hey guys – not a lot of people are happy with this movie. Some wanted it to be more like the Sopranos, some wanted more of a story, some wanted better characters. Let’s take a look inside this thing and see what happened. I know some people are saying, well, if it’s part of a series, it might be okay – but then again, movies are made to stand alone. So let’s take a gander and see maybe what David Chase was thinking, or is thinking about doing. Let’s start with the Director of the movie, Alan Taylor.
Alan Taylor is a very trusted director with HBO and with David Chase. Alan directed the legendary Soprano episode, Blue Comet, which was the next to last episode. So Chase has a lot of faith in him. Alan also directed 7 eps of Game of Thrones for HBO, Edie Falco insisted he directed some episodes of her show, Nurse Jackie for Showtime and of course he did a lot of Soprano work. Alan moved into movies, helming hits like Thor: Dark World and Terminator: Genisys. So Alan Taylor was a perfect choice for this since he has done the show, and major big budget movies.
Lawrence Konner, co-writer, oddly enough, goes all the way back to tv shows like Cagney and Lacey and Remington Steele. He went on to movies like Superman IV: Quest for Peace and Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country. Lawrence eventually ended up writing a few shows for Sopranos, and he has film experience, so it seems like he was a good choice too.
Now that David Chase put together his team of guys he knew were good and had experience and knowledge of The Sopranos, it was time for him to get his movie made. HBO was behind him all the way with a checkbook, he had movie star talent, a movie star writer and a movie director, so what went wrong?
David Chase treated this like another Soprano episode, but with 2 hours to fill, not one. So you can see the first hour of this project is pure exposition. Letting us know who is who, and who does what. Remember we have no idea who these guys are. The movie begins with Tony Soprano as a very little kid, and we go around introducing uncles and dads and aunts and mothers. The first hour of this is a bit confusing and really has nothing to do with anything. You can tell it was just filler, until David Chase wanted to begin the real thing and when he does things pick up beautifully.
Michael Gandolfini truly lights up the screen. He has the mannerisms done, the accent, the walk, the hunch, the smirk. The movie only gets interesting when he appears on screen, which isn’t until around the one hour mark.
Even with one hour left to go, David Chase is holding back the good stuff. If this were a one hour show, it would be fine, with about 10 minutes of fluff and the 40 minutes of good stuff. Problem is, this thing is 2 hours long and Chase is acting like he’s in a marathon here, not a complete stand-alone project. Which got me thinking – has HBO bankrolled a few of these things? The ending is definitely left with plenty of room for more stories, spin-offs and whatnot. The ending here is not like the end of the tv show at all, it actually feels like a beginning. So I wonder if he took all that time to introduce everybody because we’ll be seeing a lot more of them?
A young Sylvio is hilarious. He has the head nod, the walk, the eyebrow look – all of it was really funny and exactly how Little Stevie played him.
Young Paulie still has the same mannerisms and petty concerns, but no wings in the hair yet.
Young Pussy is here too, doesn’t say or do much, but his name is thrown around a lot and he’s seen pretty often.
These three guys make the movie fun, and of course getting to know Dickie Moltisanti seemed like a real pleasure and honor, since we loved his son so much for 7 years.
Ray Liotta seemed like he was going to be an albatross around the neck of this thing. Playing Sal Moltisanti, Dickie’s father, Ray was doing his same Italian mob guy schtick he’s been doing for 40 years. But – when Ray also plays Dickie’s Uncle Sal, in prison for murder, he transforms into a briliiant character that is truly worth watching. I was quite surprised and happy and glad he played both brothers.
Now keep in mind this project is nothing like The Sopranos. There is no therapist, no loving family, no big Jersey house we get to come home to. There are none of these things that we’ve come to love and know over the 7 years of the tv show. So this seems kind of different. It’s a mob movie, hard and dark on the streets of Newark during some serious rioting. There is no fathers buying sons cars, or worried about grades, or dating or anything of that day to day stuff. It is a character study mostly of Dickie Moltisanti, how he fit into the family business and how Tony Soprano mis-remembered him.
Corey Stoll who play Junior Soprano here should get special mention. He even got the voice down perfectly. The whining, the accidents, the mistakes – you realize after watching this why Junior was left out of most things in the family.
Tony’s Dad, Johnny Soprano was very limited in this movie, I guess because he was limited in Tony’s life as well. Johnny was the one guy I was very interested in seeing, but I guess since Tony looked up to Dickie so much, the movie focused on him.
The Many Saints of Newark seems more like a set up to something, than it is a movie. It’s not action packed or even interesting from beginning to end. It doesn’t work up to some great reveal to a great twist or anything like that. It’s just what it is, a quick background study of Tony’s life and his mentor Dickie Moltisanti. I would not be surprised in the least if these movies came out once a year or were planned to come out once a year. It would be a huge boost to HBO’s payroll, keep David Chase happy, rich and working for a very long time and keep us coming back for more.