Paul McGuire Grimes, the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his review on two movies that he thinks are worth checking out.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (in theaters, HBO Max)
Fans of The Sopranos have been begging series creator David Chase for more since the finale aired 14 years ago. He has written a story with The Many Saints of Newark that should please fans as he opens this world up to a time decades before Tony Soprano would leave a lasting impression. It’s 1967 and a young Tony Soprano always looked up to his uncle Dickie Moltisanti. The name Moltisanti means Many Saints in Italian and Dickie ran the neighborhood. Times are changing against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and racial tensions start to build in Newark leading to riots and looting in the city. One of Dickie’s former hitmen, Harold McBrayer, has big plans of his own going against the local Italians. The walls start crumbling around Dickie and a precocious teenage Tony Soprano continues to be shaped by the uncle he once idolized.
You can’t talk about this film without bringing about Michael Gandolfini stepping into the role once played so impeccable by his late father, James Gandolfini. Michael proves his worth giving young Tony a rich arch with humor and a little immaturity along the way looking for the attention he so badly needs.
The Many Saints of Newark is rich in its production and costume design all looking natural and lived in from the era.
The film excels at being a violent, knockout gangster film with a twisted sense of humor that works on its own but is also complimented by connecting to the Sopranos world that’s to come decades later.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE GUILTY (Netflix)
Director Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal first partnered together for 2015’s Southpaw. Now they have another intense character study on their hands with The Guilty. His character, Joe Baylor, works as a 911 dispatch operator in Los Angeles. The wild fires are burning across California causing thick tension in the background for first responders. Throughout Joe’s shift, he’s taking personal calls dealing with his soon to be ex-wife. Its evident Joe’s a bit of a hot head. His short-tempered nature comes out in his reactions to the severity of the people calling. One of his calls comes from a young woman who seems to have been abducted. Joe will stop at nothing to help her out despite the resilience he seems to be getting from his colleagues.
There’s an easy buy in from the beginning as Jake Gyllenhaal is always reliable at playing into the burning intensity of his characters. That comes in handy right away with The Guilty as you’re forced to buckle in for this quick ride.
The personal and work calls Joe takes reveal a messy past and the legal trouble he’s currently facing. We’re watching Joe unraveling before our very eyes thanks to Gyllenhaal’s performance. There’s an isolation and inner guilt we see within Joe.
The film puts us in Joe’s point of view as the camera is always on him taking the calls. We never see who these callers are or what’s happening on their end, which than mirrors the position Joe and every 911 operator finds themselves in. It’s a clever technique that pays off quite well. The audience is then asked if Joe is a hero for the extra work he’s doing or if this type of behavior is what got Joe in trouble in the first place. He’s clearly a character that lets his emotions drive him to some unethical and unprofessional choices.
Comes with a twist and reveal that happens in the final act. It’s one of those twists that may or may not turn people off from the rest of the film.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS