James Delingpole James Delingpole

Delivers in spades: The Many Saints of Newark reviewed

The casting is perfect and there’s plenty of dumb, gratuitous ultra-violence and pleasing in-jokes

What Tony did first: Michael Gandolfini as the teenage Tony Soprano, centre-right, and Alessandro Nivola as his uncle Dickie Moltisanti, far right, in The Many Saints of Newark. Credit: Barry Wetcher/© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

So how exactly did Tony Soprano become a New Jersey mob boss? It’s 1967 and young Anthony is struggling to find meaning and purpose in his life. Luckily, his doting uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) offers the love and support his feckless parents are incapable of giving. Unluckily, Moltisanti is not quite the role model he’d like to be.

Dickie complains about this on a visit to his uncle, Aldo ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), who is languishing in jail for having killed a made man. Why is it, he wants to know, that even though he does conspicuously good works — bringing Aldo jazz records; coaching a baseball team of blind children (the ball makes a bleeping noise, in case you were wondering) — terrible things still keep happening to him? ‘You know that song “Favourite Things?”,’ replies Aldo. ‘Maybe some of the things you do ain’t God’s favourite.’

It’s their untrammelled desire that causes otherwise decent, law-abiding folk to become hideously unstuck

It’s a good point well made. Aldo acts as the film’s moral conscience, an unlikely father-confessor figure, and gets most of the best lines. Another, maybe the key, one is: ‘It’s the wanting. Pain comes from always wanting things.’ Again, he’s right because this is where everyone goes wrong: it’s their untrammelled desire — be it for a relative’s attractive young wife or for a new set of speakers or the cachet of turning up at an underage party laden with illicit beer your mobster uncle has procured — that causes otherwise potentially decent, law-abiding folk to become hideously unstuck.

This is about the battle for young Tony Soprano’s soul. We know who will win it in the end, but it doesn’t make the struggle any less exciting or involving.

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