For months I’ve been pining to see The Many Saints of Newark, otherwise known as the Sopranos prequel. It was going to open on 9.25.20, but now it’s been bumped to 3.12.21. I’m very sorry to hear this.

The early word was that Many Saints would deal with the 1967 Newark race riots. Although the film deals with racial relations, I’m hearing that the Newark riots are more of a backdrop than a plot element. What is it then? Basically a portrait of the culture that Tony Soprano came from and the seminal influences that ushered him into the life of a New Jersey crime boss. I’m told it runs around around 115 minutes.

Set in Newark during the mid ’60s and early ’70s, it focuses on three characters who figure heavily in the Sopranos legend. Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the father of Christopher Moltisanti. “Johnny Boy” Soprano (Jon Bernthal), the father of Tony Soprano and capo of the original Soprano crew who goes to jail in the mid ’60s and is released in ’71. And Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga), Tony’s chilly and manipulative mother.

The somewhat lesser figure of Junior Soprano, brother of Johnny Boy, is played by Corey Stoll, and a pair of lookalike brothers are played by Ray Liotta. Significant secondary characters are played by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Michela De Rossi.

The late James Gandolfini played Tony Soprano in David Chase‘s legendary Sopranos series, which ran from ’99 through ’07. Michael Gandolfini, his 19 year-old son, plays Tony in the second half of The Many Saints of Newark.

I’m hearing that Michael is quite good at filling his father’s young shoes, and that he nails a lot of his dad’s mannerisms and way of talking, etc. Quite the connection.

A portion of “Down Neck,” an episode of the first season of The Sopranos, re-appears in The Many Saints of Newark. Particularly an incident in which young Tony hides in the trunk of his father’s car when his dad drives to an amusement park. Or so I’ve been told.

The word is that this is a good and interesting film, and that it has a lot of tasty period flavor and interesting character perceptions, and will strike chords among Sopranos fans.