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Photo 1: Cast of HBO’s The Many Saints of Newark (Photo Warner Bros./New Line) Photo 2: Leslie Odom, Jr. as Harold McBrayer and Germar Terrell Gardner as Cyril in The Many Saints of Newark (Photo Warner Bros./New Line) Photo 3: Michael Gandolfini as Teenage Tony Soprano and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti in The Many Saints of Newark (Photo Warner Bros./New Line)

The Many Saints of Newark

  • By Paige Petrone
  • Photos Courtesy of Warner Bros./New Line Cinema

Most people have seen The Sopranos, HBO’s beloved crime drama series (1999–2007). Bada-bing! While re-watching the series last week in anticipation of the release of The Many Saints of Newark, I was struck by how much the gang referred to the old days and reminisced about when they were kids. The series definitely holds up. I was consumed by it and enjoyed it as if I was watching for the first time. The Sopranos is great television — this is truly as good as it gets.

The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel, telling the story of a young Tony Soprano (originally played brilliantly by the late James Gandolfini and now played as a young man by Gandolfini’s son Michael) and his path to becoming the head of his family, known as the “Godfather” in the original series. The film is not only Tony’s story; it also follows his connection with Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli). And have no fear, the gang’s all here! It includes Tony’s menacing Uncle Junior (Corey Stoll), his tough-love momma Livia (nailed by Vera Farmiga), sister Janice (Alexandra Intrator), bestie or “goombah” Silvio (John Magaro), and notorious Pussy Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola). A newcomer to the story is the extraordinary Leslie Odom, Jr. (Tony Award-winner for Hamilton). He shines in his performance as Harold McBrayer, a small-time numbers runner with big ambitions. In Saints, Harold has a big part in the demise of Christopher’s father, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and mother, Giuseppina (Michela de Rossi). Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) also joins the cast. He turned down the opportunity to star in the original Sopranos series as Ralphie (played memorably by Joey Pantoliano; who can forget what happened to Ralphie!). He really lobbied to get Saints. He flew himself to New York to audition and was offered a part early on. Liotta plays Hollywood Dick, Christopher’s grandfather and, Dick’s twin brother Sally (who were never mentioned in the original series). This allows Liotta to make the characters his own and he is a standout!

The film’s music is a love letter to the 60s, featuring the best of Frank Sinatra and other old Italian favorites. Co-written, produced, and created by the great David Chase, Saints is directed by Alan Taylor. The ending is the best! So as not to spoil anything, I’ll just say it’s nostalgic on many levels. Die-hard fans will not be disappointed … I certainly wasn’t. If you haven’t already seen it, watch it!

In theatres and streaming now on HBO Max.