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Film / The Many Saints of Newark

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"When I was a kid, guys like me were brought up to follow codes."
Tony Soprano

The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story is a 2021 film which serves as the prequel to the HBO crime drama The Sopranos. It was released on October 1, 2021—fourteen years after the end of the original series.

Set during the run-up to the 1967 Newark race riots, the film centers around Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), a soldier in the DiMeo mafia family of New Jersey, and his young nephew Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini), whom he decides to take under his wing. As the DiMeo family grapples with unrest between Newark's Italian-American and black communities (and their criminal elements), Dickie increasingly pulls Tony into the violent lifestyle of the New Jersey mob.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

The tropes below contain unmarked spoilers from The Sopranos. You have been warned.

  • The '60s: Part of the film takes place in the late sixties, specifically during the Newark riots of 1967.
  • The '70s: The film then jumps forward to the early seventies just after Johnny gets out of prison, and continues until the end when Dickie is murdered in 1973.
  • Accidental Murder: It seems Dickie didn't set out to murder his father "Hollywood Dick", but repeatedly smashing his head into a car steering wheel does end up killing him.
  • Advertised Extra: The trailers understandably made a big deal about Michael Gandolfini playing a young version of his father's character, but he only appears in the film's second half in what's still a (relatively) minor role.
  • Asshole Victim: "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti, Dickie's father, who is accidentally murdered by his own son for being an abusive piece of shit to his second wife (and insulting Dickie's mother, after having been abusive to her as well in the past).
  • Awful Wedded Life: There's plenty of misery in Johnny and Livia's marriage already. Most of their shared screentime involves arguing with one another. When Livia puts a surprise party together for Johnny returning from prison, he can only think about his mistress and complain about their new African-American neighbors as though she were personally responsible, leading her to storm off in tears.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Granted, the conflict between Dickie Moltisanti and Harold McBrayer is a case of Evil vs. Evil. However, the film ends with Dickie dead (although through completely unrelated circumstances) and Harold having successfully taken over much of Dickie's territory for his own crime operation.
  • Black Comedy: Played with for Aldo "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti's death scene. On the one hand, him getting beaten to death by his own son is a genuinely shocking sight, with Dickie ramming his dad's face into their car steering wheel until it kills him. However, the car horn blaring almost cartoonishly every time his face hits the wheel is just downright funny.
  • Blatant Lies: It's implied that Dickie's uncle Sal can tell that his nephew is obviously lying about the nature of Aldo and Giuseppina's deaths, but he doesn't call him out on it, only barely hinting. It's likely he doesn't judge, as he's a murderer himself.
  • Bookends: Tony was supposed to meet with Dickie at Holsten's on the morning of Dickie's death, where Dickie was likely going to talk him out of getting involved in the life of crime, but he never arrives in time to do so. Tony essentially begins his life of crime at the same place it will possibly be ended in the finale of the series.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: The trailer has Tony's guidance counselor explaining to his mother:
    Mrs. Jarecki: On the basis of the Stanford–Binet, he's high I.Q.
    Livia Soprano: You can't prove it by me, he's got a D+ average.
    Mrs. Jarecki: Oh, he doesn't apply himself. But he is smart. The results tell us he's a leader.
    Livia Soprano: (scoffs)
  • Call-Forward:
    • Junior taking a bad fall after Buddha's funeral mirrors the fall on the courthouse steps that heralds the onset of his dementia in the original series. To drive the point home, he looks like his older self with a bathrobe and cane when he receives the call that the hit on Dickie was a success.
    • Baby Christopher cries instantly at the sight of Tony, who will eventually murder him.
    • A very young Anthony Soprano mentions how he saw a friend of his father's be shot in the back, and how he doesn't want that to happen to him. This is very likely his eventual fate in the final scene of the series.
  • Casting Gag: Big Pussy's actor, Vincent Pastore, is often noted to look very similar to Joey Diaz. Naturally, Diaz plays Lina "Buddha" Bonpensiero, the father of Big Pussy in this movie.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Early on in the film, during Janice Soprano's confirmation, Dickie, Johnny and Junior discuss the trouble black hoodlums are causing their numbers organization. Young Anthony overhears this and uses this as inspiration to start his own numbers racket at school, alongside his friend Artie Bucco.
  • Child Supplants Parent: Dickie murders his father and then proceeds to sleep with his father's widow.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Dickie's crew torture one of Harold's men by sticking a mechanical drill in his mouth and revving it up, causing it to grind most of his teeth out.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In the trailer, Tony wears the Saint Christopher medallion around his neck, which he wears decades later in the original series.
    • Also in the trailer, Tony's guidance counselor discusses his high score on an I.Q. test, which Tony mentions to Johnny Sack in the series.
    • Paulie has a couple of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments in the film where he does the finger point from the original series he is known for.
    • Dickie hides his heavy drinking from Tony, similar to how his son Christopher will repeatedly hide his alcohol and substance abuse from Tony during the series.
    • The younger Livia looks and sounds very similar to Carmela, playing into numerous hints about Tony's Oedipus Complex during the series.
    • Early in the film, Johnny and some of his associates are arrested at a fairground as Janice and Tony watch. This scene (with differences) was also depicted early on in the series.
    • When Tony and his mother are discussing his participation of the high school football team at Johnny Boy's welcome home party, Junior dismisses it saying he doesn't "have the makings of a varsity athlete".
    • We get to see the incident where Johnny Boy fired a bullet through Livia's beehive hairdo after getting fed up with her nagging.
    • In the original series, Christopher has a near-death experience and imagines himself in Hell along with his father, causing a crisis of faith for Paulie and Carmela. He even states that his uncle Tony is "the man he's going to Hell for". In this movie, his voiceover confirms that he did go to Hell.
  • The Corrupter: Dickie is shown as this to Tony, pulling his young nephew into a life of crime; one scene has Dickie giving a stolen stereo system to a reluctant Tony. Dickie's uncle Sal warns him to stay out of Tony's life, likely because of how Dickie is a bad influence, and to let Tony go to college and continue on down the path of an honest civilian. Ironically, while Dickie does end up trying to stay out of Tony's life, his sudden death via assassination is implied to be what ultimately drives Tony to embrace organized crime and become the man we see in the series.
  • Creator Cameo: David Chase appears briefly as, appropriately enough, Ercole "Eckley" DiMeo, the actual boss of the DiMeo crime family (who was imprisoned by the time of the series and not referred to past the second season). He's only seen very briefly and not in much detail, walking through the post-funeral gathering.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Most of the film's promotional material puts Tony front-and-center. While he does play a large role in the film, the story actually focuses more on Tony's uncle (and Christopher's father) Dickie Moltisanti. The ending of the film does make it clear however that despite Dickie being the main focus, this is also still a story of how Tony originally turned to a life of organised crime.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Aldo Moltisanti beats Giuseppina with a belt and throws her down a flight of stairs.
    • When Johnny Boy gets tired of Livia's complaining, he takes his pistol and shoots her hairdo.
  • Doomed by Canon: Dickie is a long-dead Posthumous Character in The Sopranos, and sure enough, he's dead by the end of the film.
  • Downer Ending: Dickie dies, Tony ends up following his path into a life of crime, the audience knows that many of the characters will eventually suffer gruesome fates in the '90s and '00s, and Christopher concludes his narration by confirming that he is in Hell.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Uncle Junior is an unrepentant gangster who frequently steals and murders, but he genuinely loves his nephew Tony and shows more concern for him than his parents.
    • Dickie deeply cares for Tony, giving him gifts and mentorship, and spending more time with him than Livia and Johnny. It visibly pains him to shun his nephew and stay out of his life, as per his uncle (Sally)'s advice, but Dickie does it as he ultimately feels it would be best for Tony's future.
  • Evil Mentor: Dickie Moltisanti to Tony Soprano, to the point that Livia says Dickie is the only person Tony listens to.
  • Evil Is Petty: Junior has Dickie whacked for laughing at him after he takes a fall.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The film sets up part of the story as a battle for Tony's soul, with Tony either pursuing an education to fulfill his intellectual promise or joining the mob with his father Johnny Boy and uncles Dickie and Junior. The mere existence of the original Sopranos series fills you in on how Tony turns out.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Tony first meets Christopher as an infant, Christopher begins crying, and someone remarks that infants can be born with knowledge from "the other side." Since Tony ends up killing Christopher during The Sopranos, she may have a point.
    • In the original series, when Tony tells Junior that Johnny Sack wants Ralph Cifaretto whacked over Ralph calling his wife fat, Junior says that, in the old days, a made man would not have even had to ask for permission over an affront to their dignity like that. Here, we find out Junior had Dickie murdered for something that is arguably even more petty.
  • Generation Xerox:
    • A major theme of the film is that back in the '70s, the elder DiMeo crime family members were just as petty as the members of the '90s-'00s and Tony and Carmela were just as unruly as Meadow and AJ when they were teenagers. Tony and Carmela are seen trying to snag beer for a Wild Teen Party while Junior has Dickie assassinated just because Dickie laughed at him for slipping on the stairs at a funeral.
    • On a more tragic note both Dickie and Christopher are responsible for the death of their lovers due to a betrayal; Giuseppina is murdered by Dickie for cheating on him with Harold while Adriana is killed when Chris tells Tony that she became an informant for the FBI.
  • Genius Bruiser: Despite his poor grades, Tony scores high in an I.Q. test and expresses a desire to go to college, and also doesn't hesitate to rough up anybody who slights him.
  • The Ghost:
    • Tony Blundetto is mentioned by Livia as how she and Johnny Boy discovered Tony, Artie Bucco, and Jackie Aprile hijacked a Mr. Softee truck (Tony B told Janice who told Livia), but he never appears onscreen.
    • Dickie (while gifting a stolen set of stereo speakers to Tony) tells his nephew that his friend Hesh (Rabkin) says "only kids and goyim pay retail".
  • Glory Days: During the period the film is set in, before the RICO crackdowns of the '80s gutted the Mafia as a whole, the DiMeo crime family is at the height of its influence in North Jersey. However, it's ultimately Subverted as the film shows that things really weren't all that much better during the height of the organization's influence.
  • Historical Domain Character: Frank Lucas, the infamous African-American drug kingpin who dominated the heroin scene in New York in the sixties and seventies, shows up as an associate and backer of Harold's operation. They also seem to be on quite friendly terms as well.
  • Imagine Spot: Dickie imagines himself making up for his criminal lifestyle by coaching a successful baseball team comprised of blind players. When he comes to, Sal, who he had been explaining his dream to, is gone, then making it ambiguous as to whether all of his interactions with Sal had been an Imagine Spot.
  • Irony: Near the beginning of the film, during a party for Janice's confirmation, Dickie and Junior talk about how blacks (supposedly) "prey on their own kind", killing each other for money or petty grievances. Later, over the course of several years, Dickie kills his own father, then his lover Giuseppina, and then Dickie himself is whacked on the orders of Junior over an imagined slight.
  • Kick the Dog: Junior having Dickie assassinated over a minor slight Dickie probably doesn’t even remember is low even for him. It’s also theoretically a violation of the mafia code.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Vera Farmiga was clearly cast due to her resemblance to Edie Falco, and even alters her voice to sound similar, playing into the numerous hints from the series that Tony is attracted to women like his mother. Tony describes a time Livia "snuggled up close to him" and read him a bedtime story as "one of the best memories of his life" to a school guidance counselor, although the implication there is more that this is one of the only happy memories that Tony has of Livia.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Junior is incredibly frustrated because he cannot perform sexually after he takes a nasty slip and fall on the mortuary steps. Not because he can't get it up necessarily, but his back gives him too much pain and needs to heal.
  • The Mafia: What with this being a prequel to The Sopranos and all. The film chronicles Tony's introduction to the mob through his uncle Dickie, though Tony's father Johnny Boy and Uncle Junior are already heavily involved.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Harold McBrayer has shades of this, as his motivation during the second half of the film is for his group of black criminals to be the ones running the numbers racket in Newark's black neighborhoods instead of The Mafia. He makes the decision to fully break from the DiMeo family after going to a black power poetry reading.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Harold is victorious in the rivalry and gets to move into a wealthy white neighborhood, but it's a Foregone Conclusion that the DiMeo family will still be active in the future while Harold's empire seems to have had no lasting impact — and worse yet, his heroin operation will destroy the same community he'd set out to empower.
  • Never My Fault: Even posthumously, Christopher claims that Tony is the man he "went to Hell for." Christopher from the very first episode of the series was incredibly eager to get involved in the mafia lifestyle and over the course of the show refused several opportunities to leave it behind. He also committed the very first murder in the show and did it without any prompting from Tony whatsoever.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers and promos made it seem like many scenes in the film show Dickie Moltisanti visiting his father "Hollywood Dick" in prison. "Hollywood Dick" is actually murdered by Dickie early on in the film and the person Dickie visits in prison is actually his father's twin brother/Dickie's uncle Sal Moltisanti.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: The film continues the theme from the series by showing that, for all of the talk about the Glory Days of The Mafia, things during that time really weren't that much different than the modern day depicted in the show. More specifically, Johnny Boy and Dickie had many of the same flaws as their sons, the black crime syndicate was more than a match for the DiMeo crew, and Undying Loyalty was never a thing as Junior had Dickie assassinated just because he laughed at him for slipping.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Christopher's narration reveals that he was sent to Hell after his death, but exactly what Hell is is never actually shown or described to the audience, leaving it up to their imagination.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Livia, who dismisses any chance of Tony having an academic future and shows no concern for Dickie bringing her son into The Mafia.
    • His father "Johnny Boy" isn't around much (either due to business or being in jail), so is pretty much a Disappeared Dad. Tony admits to his counselor that even when Johnny's not working, he'd rather go to a game and then come home to complain.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • The film elaborates how Dickie Moltisanti played this role in Tony's childhood and teen years. Tony admires and looks up to his "Uncle Dickie" while his actual parents are more distant and negligent towards him. Though as the film goes on, it becomes apparent that Dickie's influence on Tony wasn't an overly positive one.
    • Uncle Junior is also shown to be this (as per his portrayal in the original series), who actually shows concern for Tony in comparison to Livia dismissing his brilliance and Johnny Boy generally ignoring him completely.
  • Poke the Poodle: As teenagers, Tony, Jackie, and Artie steal an ice cream truck and start handing out free ice cream to the younger kids in the neighborhood. While motor vehicle theft is definitely a crime, the whole thing is more like an elaborate prank compared to the absolutely heinous stuff that Tony will do later in life.
  • Patricide: Dickie beats his father, Hollywood Dick, to death.
  • Period Piece: In contrast to The Sopranos, which is set in the Present Day, this film goes back further in time to the Mafia's "Glory Days".
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Unsurprisingly, the sexism, homophobia, and especially the racism of the DiMeo crime family is on full display. Notably, the idea that Harold had decided to take control of the numbers racket business for himself and his black associates is so foreign to the mobsters that they had initially assumed he was acting on behalf of one of the New York families.
  • Prequel: The movie is set decades before the beginning of The Sopranos and focuses on younger versions of characters from that show.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Downplayed. Though Tony is not the film's main focus, the events of the film set into motion how he'll grow up to become the infamous mafia boss from the series.
  • Posthumous Narration: Though the film is set in the '60s and '70s, it is narrated by Christopher Moltisanti, who died in-universe in 2007. The film begins with a shot of Christopher's grave before the story begins, and throughout the film Christopher frequently mentions that Tony will go on to kill him. He even seems aware of events that happened after his death as he mentioned that Tony left "pocket change" to Kelly (Christopher's widow) and their daughter some time after Chris died. And at the very end of the film, Christopher confirms that, yes, he did indeed end up in Hell for everything he (mostly) did on Tony's behalf in the series.
  • Red Herring: The film puts some focus on Harold rising through the ranks of the African-American crime syndicate, setting him up as a major adversary for Dickie. After a shootout at the halfway point, Dickie and Harold never interact again, and Harold plays no part in Dickie's death.
  • Retcon: Earlier supplemental material established Tony Soprano's birth year as 1959. The movie changes it to 1955 to better fit Michael Gandolfini's portrayal of Tony for the 1972 scenes.
  • The Reveal: After remaining very vague in the original series, the circumstances behind Dickie's death are finally revealed. It eventually turns out that it was Corrado Soprano ("Junior") that is behind Dickie's death, hiring an assassin to do it for him. And to twist the knife even further, he seemingly did it just because Dickie laughed at him after having an accident.
  • Saved by Canon: Tony, Silvio, Paulie, Pussy, Junior, and Livia will all survive into the original series, while Johnny will survive until dying of emphysema in 1986.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Giuseppina and Harold share a cigarette after having sex.
  • Stupid Evil: Junior has Dickie murdered because he laughed at him when he slipped in the rain. The DiMeos' later end up losing Dickie’s territory to Harold’s crime syndicate.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Since the movie takes place in the late '60s & early 70s, the entire cast is comprised of younger actors playing characters from the original series. The teenage Tony Soprano is played by Michael Gandolfini, who is James Gandolfini's son.
  • Time Skip: About halfway through, the film jumps from 1967 to 1973.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Giuseppina, for betraying a murderous made man like Dickie who killed his own father over her, by cheating on him with his enemy and then telling him about it, thinking it would end well for her.
  • The Unreveal: The film pointedly doesn't reveal the face or name of the hitman who kills Dickie, thereby preserving the ambiguity about whether Det. Barry Haydu from "All Debts Public And Private" killed him or not.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: A deleted scene shows Tony and Jackie Sr hanging out together, before having a brief scuffle after Tony loses his patience on Jackie mouthing off. They still remain friends into adulthood.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: After Livia talks with Tony's guidance counselor, Livia and Tony have a nice moment a few days later when she makes him a special lunch and they have a nice chat. Unfortunately, it goes off the rails when Livia mentions the family doctor wanted her to go on Elavil and she feels insulted after Tony innocently suggests that it might be a good idea to follow the doctor's recommendation since he's the expert.