Reviewed: "The Many Saints of Newark" Prequel

David Chase's film on the coming of age for young Tony Soprano degrades rather than expands its characters.

Reviewed: "The Many Saints of Newark" Prequel

David Lynch's " Twin Peaks Fire Walk with me" is the gold standard for movies that can be used as prequels to TV series. Lynch, who directed six episodes of the two-season series, made amends. Lynch directed "Fire Walk with Me," which was widely and incorrectly criticized at its time. This was because Lynch used radical subjectivity to handle the same material as the TV series. Lynch did more than just expand the story, he extended its imaginative scope.

David Chase, the series' creator, uses a different approach to tell the story of Tony Soprano's coming-of-age. Chase wrote the script along with Lawrence Konner. He then delegated the direction of "The Many Saints of Newark," a TV veteran who had worked on "The Sopranos" and it shows. "The Many Saints of Newark" opens in theatres on Friday and will be available on HBO Max. It isn't a fresh approach to a familiar story. Instead, "The Many Saints of Newark," which opens in theatres on Friday, has more of the same jigsaw puzzle dramatics. The six-season run of "The Sopranos," however, compensated for its simplistic aesthetic by providing complex patterns and narrative information. "The Many Saints of Newark" reduces mythic characters to just a few defining characteristics and puts them in a backdrop of historical readymades.

The story takes place in two periods: 1967, when Tony is eleven years old (played here by William Ludwig) and 1971-72 when he is a teenager (played here by Michael Gandolfini, who is the real-life brother of James Gandolfini. Tony was also featured in the TV series). The story centers on the future antihero's relationships with the Moltisanti family, which means "many saints" and in particular with Tony's Uncle Dickie, who is actually the movie's protagonist. Dickie is young and charming, at least according to the snobby Newark mobsters. When the story starts, he has two problems. His widowed father Hollywood Dick (Ray Liotta) has remarried Giuseppina, a younger woman from Italy. This sparks a sexual connection between Giuseppina and Dickie. The second is that Dickie manages the Newark numbers racket. This includes neighborhoods in which gangs are operating. As a key plot point, the movie uses the 1967 Newark riots as an example of the police brutality that was committed against John Smith , a Black taxi driver. (Whom the movie names). Contrary to popular belief, "The Many Saints of Newark," makes Dickie the primary cause of the uprising. He is a wise-guy named "Forrest Gump", who rides a taxi through the city on Mob business.