If I were to ask, “who would you cast as notorious gangster Al Capone?” a name that would undoubtedly come up is Tom Hardy. The polarizing actor has appeared in some of the biggest films of the last decade, including The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max Fury Road, and Venom. Although he is perhaps best known as Bane or Eddie Brock to mass audiences, cinephiles recognize his acclaimed work in films such as Bronson and Locke. Known for his own infamous acting methods, Hardy’s latest has him tackling the life of the inspiration for Scarface, Al Capone. Capone is available now on VOD.
“Do you know the difference between Adolf Hitler and Al Capone? Hitler’s dead.”
Capone is written and directed by Josh Trank, making his return to the directing chair for the first time since 2015’s Fant4stic (that’s how Fox spelled the title, not me). To accurately look at Capone I think we have to take a peak behind the curtains. By now we all know the stories from the set of Fant4stic. If not, in short a series of on set and off set altercations involving Trank resulted in much of the film to be either delayed in shooting, or having parts of the film removed and re-shot later.
What many did not report on during that time, and even today, is the personal problems in which Trank was dealing with at the time. Now, we don’t have to get into them at this point, but I do want to make a point as to how this relates to Capone. Trank was deemed as the next “golden boy” in Hollywood after his widely successful debut film Chronicle in 2012. After the success of that film, Trank was on board to direct not only the Fantastic Four reboot, but also an unnamed Star Wars project. After the mess of Fant4stic, the director disappeared into the void of shamed Hollywood talent. A true fall from grace from one of the most promising directors. I know this may sound negative, but much like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a new filmmaker has been reborn.
“Capone lives like a king in Florida.”
Capone follows the final year of the life of crime boss Al “Fonse” Capone (Hardy). Fonse, as he goes by now, has been released from prison after having been incarcerated for tax evasion. Since his teenage years the mobster has been dealing with syphilis, and the disease has began a rapid deterioration of his body and his mind. Capone is joined in his mansion by wife Mae (Linda Cardellini), as she helps care for his crumbling condition. All the while, Fonse’s friends, family, and the FBI are in search of a supposed $10 million hidden by Capone in his heyday.
Tom Hardy is on another level in this film…and I am still unsure if that is a benefit to the film. Hardy is bordering on a parody of a Tom Hardy performance, as he gruff and grumbles his way through unintelligible dialogue. But, in a way this fits the character. Capone is losing his mind, and at times forgets who he is, where he is, or what he is doing. The mental capacity of Capone at this time is said to be that of a 12 year old child, even more so he is unable to control his bowel movements and constantly defecates in his britches.
If all of that is not wild enough, the film is filled with hallucinations and dream sequences. This includes Capone imagining a former partner, played by Matt Dillon. His character is one of question for me. He is introduced in a scene not involving Fonse, but is later revealed to only be a hallucination. Was Fonse imagining the scene in which Dillon’s character was introduced? I guess we will leave that up to interpretation. In a later dream sequence, Capone is chomping down on a carrot (in place of a cigar), all while wearing a diaper and toting a gold plated Tommy Gun. I think that image speaks for itself.
“Guys like you don’t misplace $10 million.”
Capone is ultimately about a man who once ruled the world, and in his final year of life was nothing more than a vegetable and a shadow of his past glory. This could be a stretch but hear me out, I find a lot of similarities of the character of Capone in this film to what Trank dealt with in real life. He was on top of the world, and after a string of missteps he found himself back on the bottom, having to work himself back from the depths of hell or fade into obscurity. I think in a way this film is a representation of how fast someone can fall from grace (no matter how terrible of a person Capone was). I am not necessarily comparing Trank to Capone, but the story that unfolds in the film may be a personal one to Trank and the struggles he went through, just in a different manor.
I think there is a plenty to take away from the film as it relates to the filmmaker and his struggle in Hollywood. But as a singular film about Al Capone and his decent into madness, it unfortunately is nothing more than a mildly entertaining excerpt of the man’s life. Hardy will be the discussion of the film based on his performance, and rightfully so. He is giving the film his all, no matter if we wanted all of what he was giving.
Overall Score: 2.5/5