The Many Saints of Newark (Blu-ray Review)

There was always going to be a tricky line to walk with The Many Saints of Newark. Making a prequel film to The Sopranos, one of the most acclaimed TV series of all time, means trying to show an audience something that feels familiar yet new. Fortunately, creator David Chase is smart enough to put together a story that contains some of the standard mob movie beats expected by an audience while finding ways to bring out the internal drama in these characters. As a result, The Many Saints of Newark is not without many clear references to be picked up on by fans, but it still serves as a distinct cinematic take on some of TV’s most notorious gangsters.


Fittingly narrated by Michael Imperioli as his character, Christopher Moltisanti, the film primarily follows Chris’ father, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Set during the 60s and 70s in Newark, New Jersey, Dickie is just one of several key players in the DiMeo crime family. Tensions begin to boil over as the Italian-American and Black communities find themselves at odds with each other. And in the midst of all of this, young Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini) sees what kind of man his uncle is and begins to form ideas for what he wants to do with his life.

Right off the bat, while the first hour is set in 1967, where the Newark riots are relied on as a fitting backdrop, the second hour is set in 1971 and features Gandolfini’s incredibly accurate performance. It’s eerie how much the young actor looks like his father and how clear he is in communicating many of the same mannerisms and other affectations. However, the film wisely leaves little Tony on the outskirts of most of the film. Some key scenes show his relationship with Dickie and the very important relationship with his mother (played to hilarious perfection by Vera Farmiga sporting a fake nose), but this is not the film’s focus.

Instead, Dickie leads us through a lot of what occurs, and the film has many visualized versions of stories any fan of the show may recall. With that in mind, the film introduces new characters and aspects of the past that fans were not aware of. In saying all of this, it is important to note whether or not this film necessitates full knowledge of the award-winning TV series.

This is where credit goes to Chase and co-writer Lawrence Konner, who are well aware that it was essential to write a film that tells its own story. Director Alan Taylor (who directed a good portion of the series’ final season) may get a bit too cute now and again with how he stages certain scenes and allows some younger versions of popular characters to shine in ways that feel familiar. Still, the film is far more than just a collection of easter eggs. It’s a mob story, but it retains the elements that were so key to The Sopranos’ success.

Playing into tropes of the mafia, The Many Saints of Newark delivers on violent murders, frequent gatherings at funerals, family meals, and all the swearing you could ask for. At the same time, true to the spirit of the show, the gangster element is still handled in a fairly nondescript way. The Sopranos was about many things, but a key factor was getting to the core of these people beyond the flashy excess of being in the mafia. Focusing on the business side of things was never the most compelling aspect, not when Tony Soprano was battling his instincts for the sake of having private therapy sessions to deal with his panic attacks.

This film merely has two hours, however, so it has to juggle a lot of different characters, finding a core storyline to explore, and adding certain realizations that can inform the fans of the series without alienating casual viewers. This is why it’s fortunate to have a strong cast.

Nivola is excellent as Dickie. He’s the sort of man who perceives himself to be good, given the way he cares for others, and wants to serve as a fine mentor to young Tony. However, he’s also short-tempered with violent tendencies, leading him to hurt people close to him within an instant. Regardless of what may be known about his character going in, having the chance to explore the kind of person this is, without pushing him to be wholly likable, goes a long way in adding to Dickie’s complexity.

Others deliver what’s needed as well, notably Leslie Odom Jr. as Harold McBrayer. Harold is a man who starts as a runner for Dickie, only to find himself pursuing bigger dreams using dangerous methods. This is one of those fresh areas the film is choosing to explore. Given the proximity to today’s protests, it is interesting to see Chase placing this character in the story and finding ways to add wrinkles through a crime family’s relationship to this ambitious black man. Fortunately, Odom brings a lot of intensity in a way that reminded me of a younger Denzel Washington.

Elsewhere, the cast is rounded out by Jon Bernthal as Johnny Boy Soprano, Tony’s father; Corey Stoll as Corrado “Junior” Soprano, Tony’s wise yet insecure uncle, and Ray Liotta as twins “Hollywood Dick” and Sal Moltisanti, Dickie’s father and uncle. Liotta is another new addition to the world of The Sopranos, and he eats up the opportunity to portray both characters, one far brasher than the other.

Less successful are the younger portrayals of Tony’s crew, with Billy Magnussen as Paulie Walnuts and John Magaro as Silvio Dante, among others. It’s not that these actors are bad, but their presence felt more or less distracting, as I did wonder where this was all going. While there’s a strong core narrative reliant on evolving certain characters and delivering on a particular theme, having the presence of so many familiar faces made me wonder if this is designed to be set up for more or just the film finding ways to have fun in its design.

Struggling to see a greater purpose in all of this is what ultimately may hold The Many Saints of Newark back. It’s hard to recreate the magic of The Sopranos. While this film does a lot of good work feeling like something that could stand on its own for any audience, there’s a lingering feeling that for all the good that’s done with the key performances, the production, and more, there’s either something else we’re being set up for, or we’ll simply be left hanging. Whatever the case, looking at the film purely as a way to be reunited with a particular vision (or introduced to it), I was happy to take another spin off of the New Jersey turnpike.


Encoding: MPEG -4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: The Many Saints of Newark gets an aspect ratio change compared to the original HBO series, which is welcome as far as finding ways to assure this is a more cinematic affair. With that in mind, WB decided to send over a Blu-ray as opposed to a 4K Blu-ray, so while this is a good-looking disc, complete with a fine level of detail to observe, there’s obviously more that could be seen with a UHD version of this release. Again, this is a strong enough presentation, capturing the period details with enough clarity.

Depth: The staging of this film makes for a good understanding of character placement No real sense of flatness, particularly in some of the more dynamic sequences involving rioting and action, you can really see how the spacing is in play.

Black Levels: Black levels are quite stable, rich, and feature no sign of crushing. There are a lot of dark interiors and shadow play throughout this feature, and it all comes through incredibly well, though I could only imagine just how much deeper it could be.

Color Reproduction: Once again, there are some striking moments given how the clothing choices and some of the vehicles stick out thanks to the color choices contrasting with the subdued elements around them. These are clear choices, which really helps give the film an identity, given how familiar this genre is for the studio.

Flesh Tones: The detail level seen in the characters is impressive enough.

Noise/Artifacts: The film is spotless



Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos-TrueHD, English Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio, French, Spanish

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Compared to other WB releases that didn’t receive a 4K version at all (despite being present on HBO Max), The Many Saints of Newark does come equipped with a Dolby Atmos track. It provides the film with plenty of oomph. A well-rounded track like this does a great job of making sure the various musical themes, characters, and other sources of sound come through easily. It’s a solid track.

Low-Frequency Extension: The boom that comes from the big action and some more musically heightened moments is quite notable, doing enough to push up on the sub-woofer in the right ways.

Surround Sound Presentation: The track does well to supply the other channels with what’s needed to provide a well-rounded experience, helping capture the level of tension found throughout the film.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.



This may be about what I expected for a film that didn’t really catch fire in theaters or with critics, but the extras are still pretty basic. A few deleted scenes and a couple of featurettes are all it has going for it.

Features Include:

Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:26) – Nothing earth-shattering here. Just a collection of bits that didn’t end up in the film.

The Making of Newark (HD, 13:07) – A standard EPK, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. Not too much insight, but nice to see some of the actors address this take on the series.

Sopranos Family Honor (HD, 5:36) – Way too short, but this feature examines the original series, and how this film has a backward way of tracking various aspects of it. Highlighting Livia Marchand is an especially nice touch.

Digital HD Copy of the Film



I was on board for this return to the world of The Sopranos. Yes, it’s been a long time since the series ended, making it an odd bit of timing, but that ultimately doesn’t matter. The film is good enough, with enough working to both explore things an audience is familiar with as well as take on some interesting new ideas that could be entertaining to see factor into another prequel down the line. As for the Blu-ray, it’s a typical strong release from WB as far as the audio and video, but comes up lacking in the extras department. Series completionists should be happy enough to add this on with their Sopranos set.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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