Nostalgia…the most weaponized feeling that movie companies use to lure us in by to getting you to pay $15 and then for overpriced and under quality food items. Although TERRIBLE for you to eat, AMC’s pretzel bites in chemical created nacho cheese are a thing of beauty that a white trash Michaelangelo would marvel upon this with a look of bemusement and jealousy that he didn’t create it. And when we all read that they were doing a Sopranos prequel, that sent MAJOR shivers up our collective buttholes. And when we saw Michael Gandolfini was playing a young Tony, we gave a collective eyebrow arch but said, “let’s see what the kid has” to reserve judgement upon viewing. The first preview was pretty cool and if seeing Vera Farmiga do a fantastic Livia Soprano didn’t move the needle for you, you weren’t really a true Sopranos fan. Not many films are circled on my calendar this year but this along with Bond, Halloween, Spiderman, and Jackass (goddamn you, Paramount…moving that to February as well as Mission Impossible and Top Gun to next year.) Fast forward to yesterday where my wife DEMANDED that I wait to watch this with her. So we began the story of Dickie Multisanti (Christopher’s dad and Michael Imperioli does narrate in the film) and his family. It takes place during the race riots of Newark which used to be predominantly Italian. Dickie is a mid level criminal whose father (Ray Liotta) runs crime in said town while his young nephew, Tony Soprano, hangs on his every word and action. We see a lot of the old gang: Lydia Soprano (Vera Farmiga KILLS this role), Junior (Corey Stoll doing a solid job and with a callback catchphrase that will make you smile) Big Pussy, Silvio, Paulie Walnuts (but not enough for my liking), even Carmela and a baby Christopher.
The biggest problem is the plot; a lot of it are a collection of “who gives a shit scenes.” We were led to believe the riots were a focal point but they are not and that’s too bad. I truly wanted to learn more about them but they were just an afterthought with little impact. Another problem is you get tastes of the characters we all love but this is truly Dickie Multisanti’s story (Alessandro Nivola). I’ll wager the other fans wanted to see more intermingling with Silvio, Paulie, Jackie Aprielle, Hesh, Pussy, etc. Vera Farmiga had a couple of solid scenes with Tony including but again, we all wanted to see more and how she mentally fucks up Tony that forces him to see Dr. Melfie. One of the most impactful scenes is where Livia meets with Tony’s guidance counselor where learn more about Tony’s wiring as well as his feelings for his mother. So what else do we get? Ray Liotta playing Dickie’s dad, Hollywood Dickie. And through the oddest turn of events, we find out that Hollywood had a twin brother. Yeah, I was shaking my head in a slow, WTF fashion.
This story draaaaaags. A. LOT. I just didn’t care about a lot of the goings on. Leslie Odom plays a numbers runner for Dickie and sets up a for a possible confrontation down the road for a Black mafia/Italian mafia showdown. But the scenes he had as well as some of the black mafia stuff had me saying, “who gives a shit?” Wayyy too much time spent on something that I felt was inconsequential to the story at hand. We didn’t get enough of Johnny Boy Soprano (Tony’s dad) as he went to jail in the film but think it would’ve been more fun to see him in the family dynamic. And the guy who played Silvio, awful. I mean, bottom shelf well vodka AWFUL. I feet the scenes where Tony does bad stuff were disingenuous, like it was being forced. What else is awful? Dickie kills someone and sets his body on fire that looked about as real as special effects in the 1994 Fantastic Four movie. Go give that a googs; it redefines the meaning for “awful.” It looked as real as Robert DeNiro curb stomping that guy in the Irishman with the speed of a 3 toed sloth. SPOILER ALERT: Dickie gets killed and the motive is quite opaque. Was it because of a personal offense, was it for a power struggle? Another cliff hanger by David Chase, put it on the boarrrrd, YES! And a lot of the foreshadowing is as subtle as a kick to the nuts. Yes, Tony visits Holsten’s (where he gets shot) in the final episode several times. No, they don’t play the Journey song as that obviously wouldn’t have fit the timeframe when the song came out vs where we were in the movie. You get a couple of quotes from the show that will make you smile as I said before but they were repeated often enough which must have made the audience say, “we get it, you’re nodding to the show.”
I’d love to hear from non-Sopranos fans thoughts are on this as a pair of completely neutral eyes would have a much more interesting take. And when you watch this film, tell me that this sound mix is wayyyyy off. When they play music, it BLASTED through the speakers. When it’s just dialogue, you have to pump up the volume 7 notches. In summary, this really felt hastily thrown together. Vera Farmiga steals the show, Alessandro Nivola is solid, Michael Gandolfini is ok, and Corey Stoll was good. I was really disappointed as was my wife. And from what I’ve seen on my social media timeline, the people HATED this film. Just 2 people defended this film and the critics have their heads up their asses on this one as well, 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. You’re going to want to watch this film out of curiosity and I don’t blame you. But I’d set me expectations lower than a fallen G-string at the Bada Bing.
I was going to watch it. Now I’m not so sure!