For better or worse, a mumbling and incoherent Al Capone is the role that Tom Hardy was born to play.
“Capone” follows the notorious bootlegging gangster Al Capone in the final year of his life, now retired in Florida with his mind rotting from syphilis. Tom Hardy stars in the title role, alongside Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher, Kyle MacLachlan and Matt Dillon, while Josh Trank writes, edits and directs.
In 2015, Josh Trank directed “Fantastic Four” and the results were notably poor. Not only was the film a critical dud and box office bomb, but even before the film’s release Trank (who had reportedly been difficult to deal with while filming) disowned the project and has since spoken out against the studio system. “Capone” is his first film since that (he was supposed to direct a “Star Wars” spin-off, but left/was fired), and the passion behind it is clear. Trank must have been a fan of the famous gangster and wanted to give his own take on the genre beyond the classic “rise-and-fall” formula, and while the results are middling that doesn’t mean the film is not worth checking out on a rainy afternoon.
Tom Hardy has had an interesting but successful career, starring in seemingly every Christopher Nolan film from “Dark Knight Rises” to “Dunkirk,” as well as an Oscar-nominated turn in “The Revenant,” mumbling and grunting his way through each role. Here, he plays Al Capone, a grown man with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. Capone is physically and mentally falling apart due to disease, while his soul is being eaten alive by the guilt of his crimes. Hardy seems to be having a good time making nonsensical threats to gardeners and shooting confused glances at hallucinations, and even if this isn’t an attempt at an Oscar, the performance is a decent-enough look at a single year of an infamous man’s life.
The plot of the film is pretty straight-forward, and could be best described as “Bugsy” meets the final act of “The Irishman.” A once bigger-than-life criminal has retired to a quiet life but his past still haunts him, and his actions that made him who he is have left him alienated and alone. Josh Trank, to no fault of his own, is no Martin Scorsese (who is?) and he doesn’t have three-plus hours to have us grow with these characters, so the pondering thoughts and themes he tries to convey don’t hit as much as they do in “Irishman.” It is all surface-level, but much like Hardy’s performance it gets the job done just enough to be worthy of praising the effort.
Shot in Louisiana on a $20 million budget the film looks pretty competent, and that is the word that best describes “Capone” as a whole: totally competent. There is nothing extraordinary about it, however, nothing completely damning either. Things just progress as you expect them to (save for a bonkers finale where you have no idea what is going on), and while I may not remember the film in a few months, I think that its desire to be a more personal take on a genre that all-too-often focuses on the flashy excess makes it worth checking out for period piece fans like myself.
Critic’s Rating: 6/10.