• Nate Adams

Review: Tom Hardy mumbles through airless biopic 'Capone'


Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

With the type of studio interference that accompanied his last film, the disastrous reboot of “Fantastic Four,” Josh Trank had nowhere to go but up. And when you hear he’s been granted creative control of his next project: an Al Capone biopic starring the great Tom Hardy, fingers are crossed that it's more akin to the director’s first standout feature “Chronicle” and not “Fantastic Four.”

It's worse than both.

“Capone” isn’t the type of gangster drama filled with action sequences, gruesome killings, and wise-cracking one liners most are accustomed too, instead this unflattering and unconventional portrait of Capone (known as the Fonse) tackles the final year of his life, living out his days in a Florida mansion circa 1947 after being released from prison when his mental capacity was diagnosed to that of a 12 year old child.

Trank, who also wrote and edited the picture, deserves merit for trying to offer a new perspective on the notorious gangster, but the angle isn’t that compelling. If not for the full method-actor immersion of Hardy, “Capone” is almost the biggest waste of time this year. Then again, it’s almost worth checking out just for Hardy’s insane dedication, like wearing a saggy adult diaper under his bathrobe while wielding a shiny gold tommy gun.

At this point in his life, Capone was on tight government watch while neurosyphilis took over his brain. The narrative hook that Trank tries to explore involves the Feds’ quest to verify rumors of a $10 million stash Capone allegedly hid somepace, but now can’t recall the location. Trank intercuts scenes featuring Kyle MacLachlan as a doctor facing criminal charges, whose only salvage lies in getting Capone to fess up or risk being sent away, but the final interrogation showdown between a young hot-shot FBI agent (Jack Lowden) comes in the last hour of the picture, that it feels tacked on.

Instead, it’s apparent that Trank is far more interested in dissecting the mental state of the kingpin, in which his past slowly comes back to haunt him and visions of his reign fill the subconscious. If it wasn’t clear by Capone’s explosive bowels (emphasis on explosive) or Hardy’s bullfrog and mumbled accent, this is obviously the portrait of a man with nothing left in this world. So the question becomes, why showcase it? An old thug literally decaying in front of us, is the most boring prospect 2020 has offered thus far. There’s no intrigue, no mystery, just Hardy galavanting about singing “If I Were King of the Forest” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Hardy’s showy performance (I’m sure, at some point, he was baited into the picture because of its Oscar prospects) doesn’t leave much room for anyone else to register: I feel bad for Linda Cardelinni who, again after “Green Book,” is forced to be the strong-armed wife with little to do other than stand by idle in support and there’s Matt Dillion as an old pal who comes by to see Capone that if backed into a corner, I’m not sure I could justify his existence. Hardy, with a cigar (or carrot) wedged between his lips on a daily basis, makes his diction and cadence inaudible for the entire film. If anyone does seek this film out, I recommend using subtitles on principle.

Audiences these days have a wealth of content in the realm of gangster cinema, and Hardy proved the grumble and slurs work for a character in the “Mad Max” universe, but in “Capone” the actor, for arguably the first time in his career, seems outmatched by his own methods.

This one can sleep with the fishes.

Grade: D

Capone will be available to rent from various digital platforms starting Tuesday May 12th.