Dog’s Movie House: “The Many Saints Of Newark” Interesting Chapter In The Story Of The Sopranos!

“The Many Saints Of Newark” takes us to the late 1960’s to the Garden State in which the powerful DiMeo crime family holds sway. Headed up by such luminaries as Dickie Motisanti (a riveting Alessandro Nivola), his father “Hollywood” Dick (Ray Liotta), Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal) and Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll). Johnny’s son is the impressionable and intelligent Tony (Michael Gandolfini, eerily resembling his famous father), who finds himself being molded by the men (and women) in his life. The story plants the roots of the mob boss Tony will become.

Interestingly enough “The Many Saints Of Newark” doesn’t focus too terribly much on Tony’s life as it does the family members who orbit around him. Much of the tale is centered on Uncle Dickie and his challenges as a mob boss, particularly when it comes to the conflict between his personal and business lives. Nivola is wonderful in the role, providing a well-rounded character who means well but can also fly into rages at the drop of a hat. Dickie is a stabalizing force in Tony’s life: a father figure who’s necessary because Tony’s own father spends more time in jail than he does at home. His other uncle, Junior, is more interested in business and has a hell of a time relating to the younger Tony. And Tony’s mother Livia (an excellent Vera Farmiga) is a neurotic basket case who has already been eliminated from mother of the year contention years before the excellent Nancy Marchand made the role legendary.

Most of the plot of “The Many Saints Of Newark” revolves around a challenge to the DiMeo family in the form of a former employee, one Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) who is forming his own numbers organization and is not opposed to using violence to get his way. McBrayer, who is black, is caught up in the wave of the 1960s civil rights movement and that’s giving him extra courage to go for the brass ring, as it were. Odom is very good here, especially in the early scenes when he chafes under the restrictions of working for an Italian crime family who see him as little more than a subhuman errand boy.

For all its considerable merits, “The Many Saints Of Newark” still feels like a television show rather than a film. The plot meanders a bit in favor of a “slice of life” type of narrative that lacks focus. The film also doesn’t spend nearly enough time with the excellent Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony. You want to spend more time with Tony to see more of his story. It’s somewhat frustrating but not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination. It also makes me want to revisit “The Sopranos” on television. 3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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