The Many Saints of Newark: Sopranos prequel impresses many critics

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Michael Gandolfini in The Many Saints of NewarkImage source, Warner Bros
Image caption,
Michael Gandolfini takes on his late father's role in The Many Saints of Newark

A feature film prequel to HBO drama The Sopranos has impressed many critics - although some have questioned how much it adds to the acclaimed TV original.

The Many Saints of Newark explores the early life of mobster Tony Soprano, played in the show by James Gandolfini.

Gandolfini's real-life son Michael plays the young Tony, and one reviewer said it is a "wonderful" performance.

In the opinion of another, however, Alan Taylor's film "provides little in the way of fresh illumination".

Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, critic David Rooney also said he felt the young Tony "remains a bystander in his own origin story".

The older Gandolfini, who died in 2013 at the age of 51, played mob boss Tony in six seasons of the New Jersey-set crime saga, which ran from 1999 to 2007.

The film, which came out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, sees the teenage Tony come under the influence of career criminal Dickie Moltisanti during the 1960s Newark race riots.

Image source, Warner Bros
Image caption,
Alessandro Nivola (right) plays a career criminal who becomes Tony's mentor

The Telegraph's Tim Robey praised the "compelling ambivalence" that Alessandro Nivola brings to Moltisanti, whose surname means Many Saints in English.

Robey's four-star review called the film "a rich imaginative leap into the pre-history of an iconic show, and a rare instance of the big screen doing right by the small".

The film also received four stars out of five from The Independent, whose critic Clarisse Loughrey called it "fierce and brilliant".

She too hailed Nivola for the "ferocious magnificence" of his portrayal of "a man wrestling with his own monstrosity".

More praise came from Empire's Nick De Semlyen, who called the film "a satisfying standalone" that would make fans of the series "shiver with delight".

Total Film's James Mottram expressed similar sentiments about a "blistering" prequel that he described as "gripping, darkly funny and deeply human".

Image source, Warner Bros
Image caption,
Vera Farmiga and Jon Bernthal play Tony's parents, Livia and Johnny Boy

According to Variety's Owen Gleiberman, however, the film - while telling "a pretty good yarn" - lacks "a sense of revelation".

Den of Geek's Tony Sokol, meanwhile, said the film felt "truncated" and "might be hard to follow" for those unfamiliar with the series.

The Wrap's Dan Callahan complained: "The new characters are all one-dimensional, and we learn nothing new about the old characters from the series."

Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt was prepared to cut it some slack, saying it possessed "the spirit, if not [the] full glory" of its illustrious forebear.

Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga and Leslie Odom Jr also appear in the film, which has been rated 15 by the British Board of Film Classification.

It is narrated by Michael Imperioli, whose Christopher Moltisanti character came to a sticky end in the original TV series.

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