Critics Rave Over 'The Many Saints of Newark' and Michael Gandolfini: 'A Gamble Paid Off'

Reviews are in for The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel film to HBO's iconic series The Sopranos

With The Many Saints of Newark, fans and enthusiasts of the long-running The Sopranos finally get to see the origin story of their favorite mob boss.

Critics are raving about the prequel film to the hit HBO show, which starred the late James Gandolfini. Out in theaters and on HBO Max on Oct. 1, The Many Saints of Newark sees the formation of Gandolfini's vicious Tony Soprano during his teenage years with the actor's son, Michael, portraying a younger version of the character his father made iconic.

Danny Leigh, a critic at the Financial Times, says Michael's casting in the film "is a gamble paid off."

"He gives the film lifeblood," Leigh added.

Indiewire's David Ehrlich wrote, "If The Many Saints of Newark is divided against itself to a certain degree… the young Gandolfini brings such primacy to the character that every scene he's in feels naturally formative."

many saints of newark, michael gandolfini
Michael Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark.

Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt wrote, "Saints can't be what Sopranos was - without the time or the ones who've been lost to tell it, fuggedaboutit. But for a hundred-something minutes, it feels close enough to coming home again."

BILLY MAGNUSSEN as Paulie Walnuts, JON BERNTHAL as Johnny Soprano, COREY STOLL as Junior Soprano (in back), JOHN MAGARO as Silvio Dante, RAY LIOTTA as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and ALESSANDRO NIVOLA as Dickie Moltisanti in New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK”
Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Pictures

Clarisse Loughrey at the Independent reviewed the film as "both instantly recognisable and somehow unplaceable. It's fierce and brilliant, too - a work that both expands on and complicates The Sopranos's cultural legacy."

Variety's Owen Gleiberman wrote, "We want The Many Saints of Newark to spin a good yarn, and for the most part it does."

"Casually important, traumatically enjoyable, The Many Saints of Newark is a tale of the unexpected that will cause cineastes, as well as life-long couch potatoes, to cry hallelujah," wrote Charlotte O'Sullivan of the London Evening Standard.

In The Many Saints of Newark, Anthony Soprano is growing up in a tumultuous era in Newark, New Jersey, while idolizing his smooth-talking uncle Dickie (Alessandro Nivola), whose influence shapes his nephew from an impressionable teenager to the all-powerful mob boss, Tony Soprano.

Actor James Gandolfini in scene from HBO TV drama series The Sopranos.
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in HBO's The Sopranos. Anthony Neste/Getty

The movie also stars Ray Liotta, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro and Vera Farmiga, who plays Anthony's mother. The Sopranos series creator David Chase co-wrote the screenplay, with Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) directing.

Michael was 14 when his father James died of a heart attack at 51 while the family was on vacation in Rome in 2013.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Michael spoke about the pressures of taking on his father's iconic role saying, "The pressure is real."

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"There's fear. But the second layer, that a lot of people don't think about, which was actually harder, is to play Tony Soprano… not only was it the feeling of my dad—it was like, Tony Soprano is a [expletive] hard character," he said.

He continued, "The only insight that I think I gained was deep pride in him. I'm exhausted after three months — you did that for nine years?"

The Many Saints of Newark will be in theaters and on HBO Max on Oct. 1.

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