Skip to main content

The Many Saints of Newark Reviews Are In, Here’s What Critics Are Saying About The Sopranos Prequel

The cast of The Many Saints of Newark

The story of The Sopranos continues, sort of. David Chase, the man who brought us the crime drama series, co-wrote with Lawrence Konner The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to the HBO show. The film was directed by Sopranos vet Alan Taylor (who won an Emmy for his direction of the series) and stars Alessandro Nivola, Michael Gandolfini, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga.

In The Many Saints of Newark, a young Anthony Soprano (Gandolfini) is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark's history, as rival gangsters challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola), who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities, and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss he’ll later be known as: Tony Soprano. The crime drama will release in theaters on Friday, October 1, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max for a month (a move which David Chase is not too happy about). Critics have started to release their reviews, so let's check them out.

CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell liked the gangster flick, rating it 4 out of 5 stars, though he did note that fans of The Sopranos will enjoy The Many Saints of Newark more than non-fans, as this isn’t a stand-alone film. It helps fill in gaps left by the original series, and O’Connell argued that it even solves the mystery surrounding the ending of the series finale (if you know, you know). He also commended some of the acting in the film, but O’Connell’s main point was that fans of the show will enjoy this movie, saying:

The Many Saints of Newark hits harder if you know and care about the family – and the “family” – at the heart of the story.

David Ehrlich from IndieWire also really enjoyed the crime drama, noting that it will resonate most with fans of The Sopranos. He, like O’Connell, pointed out that this prequel helps fill in gaps that the series left behind. Ehrlich applauded many of the performances, specifically those of Gandolfini and Nivola, who were “brilliant” in their roles (Gandolfini is the son of James Gandolfini, who famously portrayed the adult Tony Soprano in the HBO series). He said:

Equal parts gratuitous fan service and gripping mob drama; a clumsy devil’s handshake of a film that’s asphyxiated to death by the same mythology it also leverages into a masterful origin story about cyclical violence and the sins of the father.

David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter also commended Nivola’s “compelling” performance as Dickie Moltisani, as well as Leslie Odom Jr.’s role as Harold McBrayer. But though he enjoyed those performances as well as the production and costume design, he thought some roles were too “sketch comedy-like,” and didn’t pay proper homage to the characters from the show. He also thought the movie expanded upon the TV show’s foundation, but will remain confusing to those who haven’t seen the series, saying:

The Many Saints of Newark is more of a diverting footnote than an invaluable extension of the show’s colossal legacy.

Leah Greenblatt enjoyed the drama overall, specifically giving praise to Nivola’s “soulful and tormented” performance, as well as Odom Jr.’s (definitely sensing a pattern here). She enjoyed many callbacks to The Sopranos, as well as how the film built upon mysteries from the show, but she also noted that at times, the two-hour movie was too convoluted. But Greenblatt argued that fans of the crime series will enjoy The Many Saints of Newark, saying:

Saints can't be what Sopranos was — without the time or the ones who've been lost to tell it, fuggedaboutit. But for a hundred-something minutes, it feels close enough to coming home again.

These critics so far have all pretty much agreed that fans of The Sopranos will enjoy The Many Saints of Newark, but that sentiment is not shared across the board. A.A. Dowd from AV Club thought the crime drama was a massive let down. He was disappointed that we’re meant to believe that this film will tell us who made Tony Soprano (his uncle, Dickie) but that foundation is not touched upon enough to satisfy viewers, and the character of Dickie is just a “paper napkin sketch.” Dowd also argued that the filtering of gangster cinema into two hours just leaves us with the tropes, and little to no character development. He also thought that the holes of the original series that this movie fills in wasn’t necessary. Overall, here’s what he said of Chase’s prequel:

What he comes up with in this over-plotted Sopranos prequel is much less interesting than what he planted in our heads over six seasons.

Well, these critics mostly think that fans of The Sopranos will enjoy this film. But you'll soon be able to decide that for yourself when The Many Saints of Newark releases in theaters and simultaneously on HBO Max on October 1.

While we wait fo the crime drama to debut, you can plan your next movie-watching experience with our 2021 movie release guide.