Movie Information

A mostly successful speculative biopic that works more than it doesn't.
Genre: Biopic/Drama
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Kyle MacLachlan
Rated: R

The myth of Al Capone runs deep in the American psyche. Films like The Untouchables (1987) and, by extension, Scarface (1983) — not to mention countless Depression-era gangster pictures — have painted the famous mobster or his stand-ins as equal parts ruthless psychopaths and Robin Hood folk heroes. Without fail, these films end in either a rampaging shootout or a jail sentence (the charges often vary), but they leave out a key part of the real Capone’s life — its ending.

In detailing Capone’s final year, director Josh Trank (ChronicleFantastic Four) attempts to shed light on this untold and often undignified portion of a storied life — one filled with dementia-fueled paranoia and hallucinatory freakouts — with a flair that works more than it doesn’t. In this sometimes grating but frequently entertaining look at where myths go to die, Capone manages a surprising amount of depth and substance despite the intentional unlikability of its main character and some lackluster story development.

The first thing you’ll notice is Tom Hardy’s makeup. With a debatable level of success, gaudy amounts of latex, false teeth and contact lenses were necessary to age the English actor to the appropriate levels of grotesqueness. An accomplished performer, Hardy’s mannerisms, gait and voice are all proportioned nicely to the task, adding to the already high levels of discomfort his appearance elicits. It’s unsettling, which I imagine is the point, but it borders on distracting, which is not.

The talented supporting players (including Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon and Kyle MacLachlan) serve as anchors amidst Capone’s dementia and are welcome foils to the surly, spewing former gangster. Ultimately, though, this is Capone’s story — which gets messy in more ways than one. Problems in pacing and structure plague Capone as it never ultimately develops into a fully formed thought. It tries to be too many things at once and never settles into a comfortable rhythm. Each of these aspects has its merits (and I’d have been happy to follow any of the threads if they’d only been made more available), but the disparities among them are sometimes too much to reconcile.

However, Capone is worthwhile for what it does achieve. The examination of a semi-guilty mind through Kubrick-, Lynch- or even Gondry-styled hallucinatory half-memory/half-dream is impressive, while the conspiracy/mystery angle works well, too — even if I’d like to see it explored more thoroughly. Though in all honesty, the gnarled and monstrous appearance of Hardy in his Al Capone mask will likely turn off more viewers than any plot or story shortcomings.

Available to rent via iTunes, Amazon and other video platforms

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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One thought on “Capone

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    For an interesting earlier take on Capone, check out the unjustly forgotten 1959 B&W feature AL CAPONE with Rod Steiger who was then just a few years removed from ON THE WATERFRONT. Lots of violence but no gore (this is 1959) but it’s full of well known character actors and Steiger is both frightening and compelling in the title role. Directed by Richard Wilson who worked with Orson Welles for many years which is evident in the film noir look of the movie.

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