HBO broke new ground when premiering “The Sopranos” pilot on January 10th, 1999. It brought an exhausted genre back to life with a breath of fresh decrepit air.
James Gandolfini starred as the titular Anthony “Tony” Soprano who had more than his share of mental issues.
SPOILERS: This film is not at all about Tony. In fact, he doesn’t become a significant character until there is 45 minutes left in the whole film. Now in defense of those 45 minutes, James Gandolfini’s son Michael not only portrays his father’s character, but he also lives up to his father’s legacy among Italian-American actors.
Remember the tales of Uncle Dickie? That’s fine if you don’t. If you’re this far in the review then you’ve either ignored the spoiler alert or you’re a true fan. When I was 11 years old, I went to see the promising “Jurassic Park III,” starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Laura Dern, and a supremely annoying and unnecessary Alessandro Nivola. Even as an 11 year old, I remember hating his character. Revisiting the film, the character is still flat, uninspired, and completely unnecessary. Therefore, as the little obnoxious preteen critic I was, I forever wrote him off as a terrible actor.
Well, I think now it’s time I owe my apologies to Mr. Nivola. And it’s long overdue. He’s had many successful bit parts in movies and shows, but today I saw him. Not as a person, not even as an actor, but as a character. He portrays Dickie Moltisanti so pathetically violent, that you, the viewer are forced to see an abomination of what used to be a human, but a character who still spews love and compassion. That is what a small, innocent Anthony Soprano saw, many times on accident. And the poor soul, toddler, middle schooler, or high schooler, it didn’t matter, he saw nothing but goodness in his Uncle Dickie.
The final shot is Anthony metaphorically pinky promising a casketed Uncle Dickie. Enter A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” and roll credits.
Don’t hate this film because it doesn’t meet your expectations. Actually, love it for that reason. This is a film for the fans.
And as fans, you’ll love this under one condition: it’s not about Tony, it’s about Dickie: the complex motherf*cker who did everything it took to protect his family; and unfortunately that means Anthony Soprano’s family.
JD Stars: ***1/2 out of ****