The Many Saints of Newark

Written by Alexander Reams

85/100

14 years ago one of the most acclaimed TV shows of all time ended. A time when all TV audiences expected catharsis for the characters they’d grown to know before the end. David Chase instead decided to fade to black not giving that final closure to Tony Soprano. Something that has haunted audiences since its air date. Chase returns to the Soprano’s world 30 years prior to it’s first season. Focusing on who was in power before Tony Soprano ever took over.

Dickie Moltisanti. Moltisanti, translates to Many Saints in English, of Newark. While also attempting to tackle the 1967 Newark race riots, and provide a backstory for Tony Soprano. Sounds like a lot to cover in a 120-minute film? That’s because it is. 

Rarely will a film fall into the issue of being too short, more often than not it’s an issue of being too long. Many Saints is too short. The film has so much it wants to cover and gives itself far too little time to cover each of these events. This could have easily been a 150-165-minute film and it likely would’ve worked even better and been decidedly more effective. Unfortunately, David Chase’s hubris wouldn’t let him make a longer film. A tragedy for sure, because once the film began I never wanted it to end. 

Chase’s new leading man is an actor that I have long loved, and have waited for him to get his big break. Something Chase and I have a shared sentiment about. The brilliant Alessandro Nivola. He has not only been good for years, he is frequently the standout in films where he is relegated to supporting roles. In The Many Saints of Newark Nivola is leading the biggest film of his career and he takes advantage of it. He embodies this mythological god that is Gentlemen Dickie Moltisanti (the father of future Tony Soprano victim Christopher Moltisanti) with such class and brutality that even Tony Soprano would be frightened. 

Filling out the rest of this world is Corey Stoll as a hilarious Uncle Junior, Vera Farmiga as the wonderful asshole Livia Soprano, Jon Bernthal as a somewhat forgettable Johnny Boy Soprano, Leslie Odom Jr. as a gleefully angered Harold McBrayer, Ray Liotta pulling double duty as Hollywood Dick Moltisanti and Salvatore Moltisanti (I was just as surprised as you when I saw this for the first time.), Michaela de Rossi as Giuseppina Moltisanti, Hollywood Dick’s wife, and Gentlemen Dickie’s “goomar” (don’t ask, it just makes it even weirder.). Billy Magnussen as a pitch-perfect Paulie Walnuts, John Magaro doing his best Steven Van Zandt impression with Silvio Dante, and Samson Moeakiokla as Big Pussy. Finally, Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini, is a younger version of his father’s iconic turn as Tony Soprano.

From the get-go, we are introduced to this world with a level of respect to the audience. Chase expects you to have seen at least part of the show, if not all of it. While it is difficult to talk about the film without spoiling some fantastic reveals, I will say that watching Nivola chew up every scene he is in is a great pleasure to watch, and his, brief bits with Gandolfini are nothing short of electric, though rushed. An issue that hangs over this film like the FBI watching Tony’s house. Calling it “the formative years of Tony Soprano” is more than a bit misleading. The film treats it as an afterthought, instead of the main plot. For which the blame falls on Chase. 

The time jumps in the film are not surprising but continue this overarching issue of being rushed. However in those time jumps we still are gifted with wonderful dialogue between everyone, something Chase can do brilliantly along with strong cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau. Even with all of these strengths in the film, I can’t let go of the fact that it is just too short. It needed to be longer, I think somewhere in Chase’s head he knew that, and if we get another film in this time period, he will hopefully rectify it. The final note he leaves us with is a perfect way to set up another film, while also being a great ending if he doesn’t wish to return to this world, something Christopher Moltisanti wished he could do before it was too late, but Chase will have to do it for him.

The Many Saints of Newark Trailer

The Many Saints of Newark is currently streaming on HBO Max and in wide theatrical release.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Cherry

Written by Alexander Reams

82/100

Cherry is the first effort from Joe and Anthony Russo after achieving superstardom with their work in the MCU. This film was highly anticipated, and most have panned the film. Cherry is based on the semi-autobiographical memoir from Nico Walker, and follows Tom Holland from a college student, where he meets his future wife, Emily, played by Ciara Bravo, to serving in the Army and witnessing death and destruction on a level that few have witnessed. After all of this trauma, he returns home and becomes addicted to hard drugs along with his wife. 

This sort of story has been told before. Someone comes back from war and has negative side effects to what they saw. What sets it apart from the others is the style that the Russo Brothers. They approach the film not as much from a character perspective but the audience, they put the audience in the shoes of the Russo Brothers, they want the audience to see what they saw as they were making it. It is an interesting perspective, and one that I found worked for what the Russo’s are trying to convey. 

Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo, who gained some recognition for her supporting role in the short lived TV show “Wayne”, are brilliant and heartbreaking in their roles. Tom Holland was clearly trying to shed the “Peter Parker persona” he gained stardom for, and does it well, all the while showing the world that he can be more than the iconic web-slinger. Ciara Bravo is fantastic, and her chemistry with Holland–electric. 

One of my favorite DP’s working today, Newton Thomas Sigel, shot the film, and provides some brilliantly executed scenes, especially during the Iraq sequences. With beautiful wide-shots, he never goes too close until absolutely necessary. The few flaws I have with the film are minor technical aspects, including a few aspects of the screenplay that I just could not follow and few that did not make sense, however they aren’t fatal enough to destroy the film, just enough to take me out of it. The narration is my main issue, it is so in your face and brash in moments that it felt like a TV movie, however the moments that did this were very few and far between. The Russo’s crafted a heartbreaking journey as well as a great analysis on society’s treatment of veterans and what can happen when they aren’t taken care of after their service to this country.

Cherry Trailer

You can watch Cherry on AppleTV+

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.