The gold standard for movies that ar prequels to television series is "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" by David Lynch. In this role, beginning in 1992, Lynch corrected the errors of his two-season series, that is, he directed only six of the thirty episodes. He directed "Fire Walk With Me," and it was widely criticized incorrectly at the time of its release, precisely because Lynch addressed the same radical subjectivity that has traditionally been dealt with on television series. He did more than expand his story. He broadened his imaginative spectrum.
In "The Many Saints of Newark," the prequel to "The Sopranos," series creator David Chase takes an opposite approach to telling the coming-of-age story of young Tony Soprano. Chase co-wrote the script with Lawrence Conner and delegated the direction to Alan Taylor, the television veteran who worked on The Sopranos, and shows: Far from finding a new way to relate to a familiar story, "The Many Saints of Newark" ( which opens in theaters Friday and on HBO Max) is more of the same puzzle drama, with scenes doing nothing more than a bit of information truncated to fit. But over its six seasons, "The Sopranos" has at least made up for its reductive aesthetic with complex patterns of narrative information. By contrast, The Many Saints of Newark reduces characters with potentially mythical power to a handful of distinctive features and anchors them in a diorama-like backdrop of ready-made historical works.
The story takes place in two time periods: 1967, when young Tony was about 11 years old (played by William Ludwig), and 1971-1972, when he was a teenager (played by Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini in real life. , who, of course, played Tony on the TV series). As the title suggests, the story focuses on the heroes' future relationships with the Moltisanti family (the name means "many saints") and, in particular, with Tony's Uncle Dickie (Alessandro Nivola), who is actually the movie hero. Dickie is young and stylish, at least by the reckless standards of a Newark gangster, and when the story begins he faces two distinct problems. First, her widowed father Hollywood Dick (Ray Liotta) married a much younger Italian woman, Giusepina (Michella de Rossi), and there is an instant sexual spark connecting her and Dickie. Second, Dickie handles the numbers in Newark, including predominantly black neighborhoods, where local gangs do business, and the fact that Dickie goes back to high school and is run by the black mob, Harold McBrair (Leslie Odom, Jr.), does not prevent him from acting on the basis of his unquestionable racism. The film uses, as a crucial point in the plot, the 1967 Newark riots, which were sparked in real life by a brutal police incident against a black cab driver named John Smith (whose name verifies his name). Rather, Dickey's own "Many Saints in Newark" is the direct cause of that uprising, the kind of "Forrest Gump" sage who bends the story arc as he rides a cab around town on Mob's business.