After a decade of imprisonment, Al “Fonzo” Capone is allowed to live his final days at his secluded Florida estate down in the swamps. Neurosyphilis has rotted most of his brain, as he can barely tell what’s real and what’s not, and his wife, Mae, tries to support him the best she can. However, Capone’s hallucinations grow increasingly vivid as he also becomes suspicious of a coordinated effort to find and take the $10 million he has hidden somewhere.
We all know Al Capone as the notorious gangster who was king of Chicago, brought down by tax evasion, and spent time at the heavily guarded Alcatraz. But in Josh Trank’s Capone, we see a different chapter in Al Capone’s life: his ugly end. Not unlike the final act of Scorsese’s The Irishman, Capone does not glamorize or glorify the gangster lifestyle, but instead focuses on the lonely road at the end of such a life, a sort of retribution for all the murder and criminality. However, where Scorsese found a somber poeticism in his story, Trank appears to be carried away with the slop and crudeness that pertains to his; we watch Capone soil himself, crap his pants twice, and drool his way through the film, making for quite the gross-out feature.
Capone is Trank’s third directorial effort, following 2012 sleeper hit Chronicle and 2015 box-office dud Fantastic Four. Trank wrote, directed, and edited the film, and even makes a cameo in a later scene where Capone is interrogated by the FBI…and concludes with, you guessed it, defecation. This kind of power weld by a singular filmmaker is often a recipe for disaster, unless managed by an expert of their craft; I’m sorry to say Josh Trank is no Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan.
Capone fails to answer some very necessary questions such as why should this story be told? Or, what do we stand to gain by watching? Most of the time, I couldn’t even tell where Trank was going with his film. The subplot of Capone’s missing $10 million ends without a payoff, and his descent into madness is a poor man’s version of Kubrick’s The Shining. Themes of karma and mental illness are lost in the mix with the film’s more grandiose moments, such as when Capone marches around with a golden tommy gun in a saggy diaper, shooting everyone in sight. I think if Trank capitalized on these moments more, cranking the fever dream aspect up a notch, we could’ve gotten a wildly entertaining time. Unfortunately, too often the camera is spent lingering on Capone slouching in a chair smoking a cigar.
Tom Hardy brazenly plays Capone, who is only a shell of the man he once was. For the majority of the film, Hardy is limited to grunts and barely comprehendible mumbles, this only becoming more of the case after Capone suffers a stroke; his voice is raspier than Christian Bale’s Batman. Hidden by heavy makeup and bloodshot eyes, Hardy is given the chance to really chew up the scenery, such as in a scene where he is watching The Wizard of Oz at his private home theater, only to break into song and rehearse the Cowardly Lion’s “If I Were King of the Forest.” As he proved in Venom, Hardy has the over-the-top ability to glue our eyes to the screen even during the not-so-greatest of films. Linda Cardellini also offers compelling support work as Capone’s wife, Mae.
There’s a promising film somewhere among the mess of Josh Trank’s Capone; for all the nonsense and vulgarity, I still managed to enjoy myself. 7/10