The Many Saints of Newark, damp squib of the year

The Many Saints of Newark.

Like so many oth­ers, David Chase only ever end­ed up in tele­vi­sion because he’d been unable to get any of his fea­ture films off the ground. So after the stratos­pher­ic suc­cess of The Sopra­nos, it was inevitable that his next move would be to make a feature. 

Which he duly did, with the blink and you’ll miss it Not Fade Away, from 2012. So for many peo­ple, this year’s Sopra­nos’ pre­quel feels like his real move from the small to the sil­ver screen.

So it’s iron­ic, if, again, inevitable, that The Many Saints of Newark should end up being so demon­stra­bly a work of television.

To begin with, it’s not even a David Chase film. He got Alan Tay­lor to direct it. Which is fine, Taylor’s a tal­ent­ed direc­tor, as his gen­uine­ly charm­ing fea­ture Palookav­ille (’95) demon­strates. But why, when you final­ly get to call the shots, would you let some­body else direct your baby?


Chase has clear­ly become so insti­tu­tion­alised after decades in tele­vi­sion, that that’s the only way he now knows how to work. So instead of direct­ing it, he’s its showrunner.

And tele­vi­sion is what he gives us. It’s basi­cal­ly a slight­ly bloat­ed, 2 hour, extend­ed pilot episode. And it needs all that time to intro­duce us to the many char­ac­ters we’re going to be meet­ing over the course of what are pre­sum­ably the next 10 or 11 episodes. 

But it does have what appears to be an all-impor­tant spine. The meat of the dra­ma cen­tres around the rival­ry between Dick­ie and Harold, over who gets to rule the turf. Which is fur­ther height­ened by the fact that the for­mer is white and the lat­ter black, and it all takes place in the midst of the race riots of 1967. 

And, for the first hour or so, that ten­sion threat­ens to build. But then it stalls. And then it’s left casu­al­ly hang­ing. To be resolved come the sea­son finale, in who knows how many future episodes’ time. 

The Sopra­nos.

The real prob­lem here is that this kind of incon­se­quen­tial, flab­by sec­ond hour would nev­er have been allowed sit at one of the sto­ry meet­ings, had this been put for­ward as an episode dur­ing the actu­al Sopra­nos

It’s only because it’s so con­fi­dent­ly direct­ed and slick­ly pack­aged, and because so many of us watched it through pairs of impres­sive­ly rose-tint­ed spec­ta­cles, that nobody’s plucked up the courage to call the film out on its almost com­plete lack of actu­al drama.

Nev­er mind. It looks fab­u­lous. And we’ll always have the tele­vi­sion series to fall back on.

You can see the trail­er for The Many Saints of Newark here

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