If you’re longing for a dead-serious portrait of Al Capone’s final days in which he loudly shits his pants in front of FBI agents, look no further than writer-director Josh Trank’s passion project, Capone.
The film feels like a dudebro response to The Irishman. You can picture Trank watching Martin Scorsese’s work and muttering, “Oh, yeah? Well, my movie’s gonna have a dying gangster farting!”
Capone explores the Chicago mobster’s exile in Florida, where he wanders around his sun-baked mansion and digs through the cobwebs of his dementia-addled brain. Here, Trank and star Tom Hardy effectively convey how sickness shrunk the formidable figure. One particularly memorable scene finds him standing in front of the screen in his home movie theater, singing along with the Lion in The Wizard of Oz and trying to seem larger than life. He’s like a child struggling to demonstrate power. Sounds like another certain public figure in the news these days, doesn’t it?
For quite a spell, not much happens in the film. It meanders like Capone does. The major conflict boils down to FBI agents searching for a large sum of money that Capone supposedly tucked away. You can’t help but side with an overseeing agent when he says, “I don’t give a shit about Al Capone. When he dies, dig up his place, find whatever’s there and move on.”
The more interesting parts of the movie take place inside Capone’s mind, as memories of his mayhem come back to haunt him. While The Irishman delicately explores the banality of evil, Capone indulges in excess. We see one of Capone’s henchmen stab a fellow mafioso in the neck for at least 30 seconds straight. This makes for a stark, startling contrast to the quiet, intimate opening chapter of the film.
As Capone grows paranoid about people out to get him, we see the mobster finally understanding the same fear he strikes in others, choking on the taste of his own medicine.
OK. So, the more I write about this film, the more I appreciate it. But I don’t want to downplay how bizarre it is. Hardy’s performance consists of growling, grunting, passing gas, pooping his pants and sizing people up like Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm when he’s trying to sniff out a lie. At one point, he calls an alligator “a fucking bum” and blows a hole in its back with a rifle. Another scene finds him sucking on a carrot while taking down friends and family members with a gold Tommy Gun. The film is a greasy carnival ride under the guise of a polished prestige picture. With luscious cinematography by Peter Deming and a quietly ominous score by rapper El-P, Capone seems like Oscar bait, but it feels pretty trashy.
Although the cast boasts such stars as Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon and Kyle MacLachlan, they fall under the shadow of Hardy. Is his performance good? Is the film good? Well, let’s just say that both are fascinating to watch.
After publicly whining about his Fantastic Four reboot and fleeing from a Star Wars anthology film, Trank made a film exactly his way. This is his final cut. Apparently he gave Hardy free reign, too. What does it say about them that their work here is batshit crazy?