David Chase’s much-anticipated Sopranos prequel The Many Saints Of Newark may well explain a key detail from the iconic series. Like the lauded show, the new movie looks set to explore all aspects of the East Coast criminal underworld, chronicling the rise of the DiMeo crime family and its associates. However, as a prequel, the feature also has the opportunity to examine prominent themes present throughout the original, delving into how and why the Sopranos operate in the way they do.
Unlike the original show, The Many Saints Of Newark will focus primarily on Tony Soprano’s mentor Dickie Moltisanti. From the trailer, it’s clear that the action will revolve around Dickie (played by Alessandro Nivola), introducing other familiar characters from the Sopranos canon as the story unfolds. A young Tony Soprano will also feature heavily, portrayed on screen by original actor James Gandolfini’s son, Michael. Also included are other returning Sopranos favorites, such as Corrado “Junior” Soprano, Livia Soprano, and Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero.
One of the many things that made the original show so compelling was its multifaceted examination of all aspects of Mafia life. From racketeering to larceny, the show went into great detail over the ins and outs of Mob-rule. However, one enterprise that never had its origins fully clarified was the role of narcotics. Given the tension between boss Tony Soprano’s hatred of drug use and their clear importance to his criminal empire, this juxtaposition was often a source of speculation. Now, with the prequel film delving into the entire Soprano family’s back story, this key plot point may finally get a clear explanation.
Given the late 60s setting of The Many Saints Of Newark, it’s clear that the movie will examine a key period in the history of the North American Mafia. Like films such as The Godfather and Goodfellas, the story coincides with a period in which drug use, and therefore drug distribution, became increasingly common. As an organization, the Mafia has always had a complex relationship with narcotics. Real-life bosses such as Paul Castellano, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, and even the notorious John Gotti had specific policies in place against the dealing of drugs. However, while on the surface the organization may have been against the trade – largely due to the heavy jail sentences involved – the reality was that drug dealing was tolerated, so long as the higher-ups were in on the action. This key detail is hinted at in The Sopranos but rarely explicitly stated, giving The Many Saints Of Newark an opportunity to further explore this vital aspect of Mafia culture.
Although not directly shown, a drug war between rival criminal gangs is strongly hinted at during the trailer. Considering the wider historical context of the time period, the film could therefore provide a crucial missing piece of the jigsaw as far as Tony Soprano’s confusing and contradictory attitude to drugs goes. It may even help to explain why he reacts so strongly to his nephew Christopher Moltisanti’s addiction problems throughout the series. Either way, seeing the origin stories of these characters on the big screen means that The Many Saints Of Newark may well provide crucial insight for understanding the main Sopranos series.