What Critics Are Saying About Sopranos Prequel

James Gandolfini's son is 'riveting,' though film itself has some so-so reviews
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2021 11:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Fourteen years after the cut-to-black ending of The Sopranos, James Gandolfini’ son, Michael, reprises his father's iconic role as Tony Soprano in the prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, co-written by Sopranos creator David Chase (with Lawrence Konner) and directed by series regular Alan Taylor. Set around Newark, New Jersey, in the late 1960s and early '70s, amid clashes between Black and Italian gangsters, the film has a 73% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. What critics are saying:

  • It's certainly made for Sopranos fans, writes Adam Graham at the Detroit News, noting the creators revel in "the connecting of the dots that fans will have a ball poring over" and include "future spoilers that may take away from The Sopranos experience." The film "enriches" that experience, while allowing Ray Liotta to shine in a double role. He "hasn't been this good since Goodfellas," Graham writes.

  • Gandolfini is "riveting," but his character—"as mysterious at the end of The Many Saints of Newark as he is at the sudden end of The Sopranos"—"is a cameo in his own origin film," writes Mark Kennedy at the AP. Tony's mentor, Mafia boss Dickie Moltisanti, "played with real verve by Alessandro Nivola," takes center stage as the film attempts to tackle generational violence and structural racism. Unfortunately, it "sags in many parts, never achieving the focused tautness of the series and often seems aimless," Kennedy writes.

  • It's "fascinating to study and consider, but not nearly as good as the television series that made us wish for this movie to exist," writes Jen Chaney at Vulture. "Without six seasons of premium cable TV to add context, it plays out like a reasonably well-executed but not particularly inspired mob movie reminiscent of other mob movies you've probably seen before, and with an antihero in Dickie who lacks the depth and surprise that James Gandolfini's Tony possessed in abundance."

  • Randy Myers had a ball nonetheless. "While it slips near the finale—it doesn't help that we know what's coming—there's no doubt that Saints is one of the most entertaining films of the 2021," he writes at the San Jose Mercury News, complimenting the "electrifying cast playing unforgettable characters, perfect period details and a four-star screenplay." And Nivola has never been better, Myers adds, giving the film 3.5 stars out of 4.
(Read more movie review stories.)

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