In 1999, writer David Chase and HBO struck gold with their critically acclaimed series The Sopranos. The show is about the head of a New Jersey crime organization who seeks out therapy because of the stress levels caused by both his work and home families. The Sopranos racked up an astounding 111 Emmy nominations and went on to win 21 of those. Many critics, myself included, are firmly entrenched in the belief that The Sopranos isn’t just the greatest show in the history of television, but the symbiotic marriage between actor James Gandolfini and main character Tony Soprano will also go down as the single greatest acting achievement in television history. HBO practically coined the term “appointment viewing”. No matter what plans were made, everyone had to be in front of their televisions at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. When the show finally faded to black on June 10, 1997, how many of you called your cable provider demanding answers?
It’s been almost 15 years since The Sopranos went off air and 8 years since the tragic death of actor James Gandolfini. Instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, creator David Chase decided to take us back to the very beginning and give the world a Tony Soprano origin story. To add some gravitas to the decision, he cast Gandolfini’s son, Michael to play the iconic character.
The Many Saints of Newark takes us back to the 1960s. Young Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) grows up with his mother Livia (Vera Farmiga), his father Johnny (John Bernthal), and his sister Janice (Alexandra Intrator). While he is a good kid, he mostly idolizes another member of the family Dickie Moltisanti. Dickie takes an immediate interest in young Anthony and takes him under his wing as the family rises up against the powerful DiMeo crime family.
While The Many Saints of Newark works extremely well as a stand-alone gangster film, the real delight is taking a stroll down memory lane with the beloved characters we spent so much time with. Sure, we know how it all ends, but it’s just as fun pulling back the curtains to see how it all began. Ever since Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather saga, audiences have always walked a fine line between mobsters and morality. Once again, The Many Saints of Newark has us cheering for the bad guy.
By SCOTT PETERSON