Written and Directed by Josh Trank
Starring Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan, Kathrine Narducci, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher, Tilda Del Toro, Al Sapienza, Mason Guccione, Jhemma Ziegler, and Wayne Pére
The 47-year old Al Capone, after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past.
Tom Hardy is simultaneously riveting and darkly funny as the eponymous Al Capone, with writer and director Josh Trank (somewhat bouncing back from the unmitigated disaster that was Fantastic Four) eschewing Capone’s criminal empire that has been covered multiple times over in favor of studying the deteriorating mind of his final year. Capone is nothing like any other study of the character before it, but the result is still an uninspired psychological fever dream that comes up short expanding on the legacy of the legendary gangster in any memorable way.
The script seems to have been constructed around giving Tom Hardy’s Capone melodramatic moments (he suffers from neurosyphilis and barely has any idea what’s going on in the world surrounding him), a condition that only gets worse when he takes a nasty bump to the head halfway through the movie) without any thought as to how to reveal anything informative about him. This becomes more evident during a sequence where Josh Trank decides to thrust Capone into a nearly 20-minute hallucination seeing his violent past clashing with his current dementia. It starts out fascinating to watch and even contains a few striking visual compositions, but by the five-minute mark of that stretch, it becomes clear that Josh Trank no longer really knows what direction to take Capone.
Most scenes can simply be summarized as pointless interactions that Tom Hardy made worth watching, whether it be his trademark knack of distinct voice-altering or his ability to sell choking on a carrot. Yes, cigars are no longer good for Capone, forcing his family to trick him into replacing them with carrots for pretty much every scene moving forward. And that’s only one way Tom Hardy is willing to humiliate himself for the part.
Nevertheless, the year of 1946 sees Capone living out the rest of his days at his Florida home. He’s no longer a threat to anyone but himself, but there are some shady motivations behind the scenes. The government is sharply watching and listening in to everything that goes on within the residence (including bribing others with clemency to carry out more dirty work) hoping for clues to the location of a secret large sum of money Capone has stashed away. Josh Trank also uses this dynamic to play around with the idea that Capone might be more aware than he leads on, which would work if he and anyone else in the movie had stronger characterization.
For the most part, it’s Capone severely mistreating his wife Mae (sightly layered and well-performed by Linda Cardellini, often flipping between sympathizing with him and standing her ground from verbal abuse), receiving mysterious phone calls from a distant son, and hanging around his confidant and mentor, Matt Dillon’s Johnny. Capone also happens to be around his family, stooges, and doctors (Kyle MacLachlan), some of which also happen to be trying to jog his memory about hidden money. At the center of it all is Tom Hardy committed to the role, again, making for the only real standout element of the film.
There are some intriguing visual comparisons such as watching Capone’s mental state gradually get worse as many of his prized assets (featuring Greco Roman statues) are taken away, and the first 45 minutes or so of a man’s mind collapsing are engaging to watch. Then, Josh Trank steps into psychological horror, transitioning Capone into a lame attempt at a mindfuck. However, it’s difficult to not recommend a movie where Tom Hardy aimlessly fires a Tommy gun while wearing a diaper. Come for the proposition of Tom Hardy playing Al Capone, stay for the absurdity it provides; just don’t expect too much actual insight on America’s most notorious gangster.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com