FAMILY BUSINESS
TV Guide Magazine|September 27 - October 27, 2021
The Many Saints of Newark turns back the clock to show how Tony Soprano came of age
ILEANE RUDOLPH
WHEN THE SOPRANOS ended in 2007, a great many fans screamed bloody murder. It wasn’t just because the pop culture sensation that this magazine, in 2013, called the best television show ever, had closed up shop after six seasons; it was the way it ended. There was Tony Soprano (played by three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini), sitting in a booth in Holsten’s ice cream shop and diner in Jersey with some unseen fate seemingly approaching in the darkness. Would we ever find out what happened to TV’s ultimate king-sized and analyzed mob boss?

We would not—Gandolfini’s 2013 death from a heart attack rendered any sequel impossible. But series creator David Chase has brought us the next best thing: The Many Saints of Newark, a beautifully cinematic prequel that lays out the origin story of Tony (played with fire and sensitivity by Gandolfini’s son, Michael) and introduces the mentor who shaped him. With younger versions of familiar characters (see sidebar, opposite page) and several ambitiously woven backstories (involving Greek tragedy–style family drama, jealousies and murder as well as the Newark race riots of the late 1960s), it’s safe to say this most familiar family is back with a vengeance.

Still, anyone thinking that Many Saints is a continuation of The Sopranos should, in a word, fuhgeddaboudit. The film’s real star is Dickie Moltisanti (played with tons of charisma and a closetful of sharkskin suits by Alessandro Nivola), who we find out early on is the father that Sopranos prime mover Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) never knew. (The name Moltisanti is Italian for “many saints.”) Dickie takes Tony under his wing, trying to school the sometimes truant youngster to stay out of trouble. But Tony’s overriding impression is that Dickie—who runs a nightclub and various criminal rackets—lives the alluring mob lifestyle, complete with ready cash and earned respect.

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