The Mafia is all about blood and betrayal. A close-knit syndicate that can either kill or get killed for the family. Cinematic Mafia tales are often flooded with inner and outer mob struggles. Outside the family, they fight against their rivals, while on the inside, it’s always the family that stabs. It’s like Fredo betrayed Michael Corleone, and we still can’t forget how he looked him in the eye, kissed him, and said, “I know it was you, Fredo.” And suppose one overlooks the legacy of Anthony “Tony” Soprano from The Many Saints of Newark. In that case, Alan Taylor’s film is just another mafia crime drama about internal and external betrayals.
Based on the fictional characters created by David Chase, The Many Saints of Newark is a direct prequel to television’s popular series, The Sopranos. The film chronicles the teenage years of Anthony “Tony” Soprano (played by Michael Gandolfini). The backstory captures the titillating story of Tony’s uncle, Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti, and his influence on young Tony, who idolized his uncle Dickie. The plot also surrounds the 1967 race riots that created tension between Newark’s Italian and African communities.
‘The Many Saints of Newark’ Plot Summary
The Many Saints of Newark begins with a divine voice-over. Christopher Moltisanti speaks from the grave and fables the story of his father, Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Dickie’s father, “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), and his twin brother, Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti, worked for the DiMeo crime family in Newark. Hollywood Dick, who works as an associate, returns to America from Italy with his new trophy wife, Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi).
Dickie runs DiMeo’s illegal lottery business and manages other smuggling rackets. He hires an African-American, Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), to collect debts from the runners and handle their nasty work. However, while the Italian Dickie drives a fancy car and wears a Swiss watch, Harold and his family live in poverty. Harold aspires to become big and break the class barriers.
Their lives get complicated as the inciting incident arrives. In Newark, 1967, two police officers (probably John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli) arrest a black cab driver, John William Smith. According to the crowd opinion, the officers assaulted the colored driver, which led to his death. The African community revolts against the white supremacists, and Newark burns in fragments under racial tension.
Meanwhile, Dickie, fascinated by his stepmother Giuseppina, finds out that his toxic father, Hollywood Dick, has started abusing his new wife as well. While in the Soprano family, a recent tragedy strikes. Tony’s father, Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal), is arrested for an outstanding warrant for assault with a deadly weapon at The Lobster Trap Restaurant.
Dickie confronts Hollywood Dick and threatens him not to hurt Giuseppina again like he used to beat Dickie and his mother in Dickie’s traumatic childhood. Enraged by memories, Dickie strikes his father’s head on the steering wheel and kills him in anger. Dickie dumbs the body at Atta Boy drainage supply shop and burns down the building to make it look like a riot casualty.
After Hollywood Dick’s death and Johnny Soprano’s imprisonment, Dickie takes over the business. He starts an affair with Giuseppina and looks after the Soprano family in Johnny’s absence. Dickie becomes the guiding light in Tony’s life. But as Dickie becomes the center of attraction, rivals from all sides threaten his territory.
The Many Faces of The Saint of Newark – Richard ‘Dickie’ Moltisanti
Dickie’s relationship with Sally
The characters are not stagnant. They evolve for the better or worse. For Dickie, he was inherently a sane man who lost his sanity in the course of events.
After his father’s death, Dickie contacted his father’s twin brother, Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti. Sally was convicted at the age of 25 for murdering a member of his own family. Hollywood Dick hated Sally, but Dickie now had all the reasons to resonate with him. After all, Dickie killed his father. Dickie thought Sally could guide him in life and could probably help him to get a son. For a mafia, blood is family, and Sally was the only living male member (other than Dickie) of the Moltisanti family.
Dickie’s Relationship with Tony
Before Christopher’s birth, Dickie looked after his nephew Tony Soprano like a son. Tony looked up to him as a father figure, a father he wanted but never had. Tony’s father, Johnny, was physically abusive and absent (imprisoned), while Tony’s mother, Livia, was delusional. In the absence of any authority at home, Tony, as a kid, lost his way. He started a gambling operation at school and started smoking at a tender age. Dickie guided Tony and often took him and his elder sister, Janice, to the movies (the best memories of their childhood).
In the end, Dickie tried to do good for Tony’s family and therefore purchased many bottles of Elavil (an antidepressant) for her mother, Livia. At Dickie’s funeral, Livia gossiped about the same and called Dickie weak for having Elavil bottles. But in reality, those medicines were for her, but she was too stubborn to understand.
At each interval, Dickie guided Tony. But after Dickie’s assassination, the void and grief pushed Tony into the world of crime, and there was no looking back.
Dickie’s Relationship with Giuseppina
Dickie had a hypocritical sense of morality. He believed that he wasn’t like his father, but he repeated the same mistakes in the relationship. He started an extramarital affair with Giuseppina and promised her to buy a saloon. But like Giuseppina told Harold McBrayer, Mafia men don’t like their women to work or go outside the house.
Things got complicated when Giuseppina, with a dream, got frustrated with Dickie’s false promises. She engaged in a casual one-night stand with Harold, and when she confessed the same to Dickie, he drowned her. It was evident that his genetics took over his morality.
The Cut Throat Rivalry
After the 1967 race riots, Harold McBrayer had enough of serving white men and filling their pockets. While the DiMeo family ate in fancy restaurants, Harold killed people and collected debts. He believed that if he had the workforce, he could indeed run a business too.
Harold broke all ties with Dickie and started the first black numbers bank in the Central Ward. He waged war against the Italian Mafia with the support of Frank Lucas. When Dickie discovered that his former runner had stood up as his rival, he infiltrated his shop and killed Harold’s associate, Cousin Cyril.
The angry revolutionary backfired and opened fire on Johnny, Dickie, and other men. He killed two Italians, but Johnny and Dickie managed to survive. Dickie and his men hunted for Harold, and in the meantime, Giuseppina confessed to sleeping with Harold. The revelation acted as the fire that burnt all. Dickie killed Giuseppina and decided to end Harold, but Dickie was mysteriously shot by another hitman on Christmas night.
The feeling of being neglected, ignored, or shadowed. One hustle, yet all their struggle goes down the drain. It’s the best recipe to carve a flawed antagonist, a perfect shadow player. The Junior Soprano was Fredo of The Many Saints of Newark.
The stab came from the inside. Junior and Dickie shared a bitter relationship. Dicke didn’t intend any harm to Junior, but Junior was burning with a desire to take revenge. Why?
Throughout the film, Dickie mocked and made fun of Junior. He made Junior feel incompetent. After Johnny’s arrest, Junior tried to make his presence felt and requested the family to consult him for each and everything. But Dickie stole the authority and limelight. Junior believed it was his duty to take care of Tony while Johnny was in jail. But yet again, Tony only listened to Dickie and Junior got envious.
Junior tried to be friendly with Dickie, yet everyone neglected him. The feeling of incompetence turned into anger when at Buddha’s funeral, Junior slipped on the stairs. And Dickie, in his humor, laughed at him like a maniac. Junior swore to take revenge, and finally, he did.
At the end of The Many Saints of Newark, it was subtly suggested that the unknown hitman who shot Dickie was hired by Junior. He took his revenge for all the humiliation caused by Dickie.
‘The Many Saints of Newark’ Ending Explained
Dickie murdered Giuseppina, and Sally could read it written all over his face. Sally understood the pattern and could foresee what lay ahead. He suggested Dickie stay out of Tony’s life for the kid’s well-being.
After Dickie started ignoring Tony, he felt abandoned. He was already dealing with an absent father and mother, and after Dickie’s absence, he didn’t have anyone to look after him. He was lost. Silvio Dante understood the fact and convinced Dickie to meet Tony the next day at Holsten’s. Silvio believed Tony had potential and could do wonders in their business. He just needed a bit of guidance, and Dickie was the man who could do it. But Dickie was shot that night.
Tony waited for his uncle at Holsten’s, but he didn’t come. Instead, the tragic news arrived. At Dickie’s funeral, Tony looked at his dead uncle lying in the open casket. Symbolically, he made a pinky promise to continue his legacy. The prequel connects with The Sopranos, hereafter.
In the post-credit sequence, Harold McBrayer and his family shifted to the white neighborhood, thus breaking the chains of racial discrimination. The fire of revolution is still warm.
The Many Saints of Newark is a 2021 crime drama film directed by Alan Taylor. It is based on the fictional characters created by David Chase in his television series, The Sopranos. The film is streaming on HBO Max.