Tom Hardy acts hard in muddled late-life gangster biopic Capone: Review
Hollywood, it seems, just can’t quit Al Capone. And Tom Hardy can’t stop trying to hide the pretty that God gave him, whether it be under Bane masks, Mad Max-ian fury, or piles of prosthetics. And so we have Capone: a turgid, lumbering lion-in-winter drama about the legendary gangster’s last days.
Freed from a lengthy prison sentence for tax evasion but addled in brain and body by a raging case of syphilis, the man friends and family call “Fonz” barrels around his Florida estate like a furious bear: shouting death threats at gardeners, shooting up alligators, soiling his pants. His long-suffering wife (Linda Cardellini) and jittery doctor (Kyle MacLachlan) are at a loss; a young FBI agent (Dunkirk’s Jack Lowden) believes he’s cannier than he lets on, particularly about a “lost” $10 million cache.
The movie feels like a passion project for writer-director Josh Trank (Fantastic Four), though not necessarily in a good way; he invests so much in atmosphere and in chronicling Capone’s decline that the storyline — riddled with flashbacks and half-hallucinations — becomes a sort of surreal afterthought, a strange patchwork of bathos and brutality.
Matt Dillon appears (or does he?) as an old friend and fixer called in to help soothe the savage beast; Lowden, MacLachlan, and Cardellini don't get to do much beyond parry or cower before a man who is part terrorist, part toddler. (It feels like a particular waste of Cardellini, who still manages to make as much as she can of yet another Green Book-style turn as the loving but exasperated adult in the room.)
It also doesn’t help that Hardy, all guttural growls and tics, seems to be vying for the prize of Most Acting. As tempting a chew toy as the role may be, it comes off like a trap for him too — voiding his better, subtler instincts for the baser pleasures of getting to ramble and roar outrageously across the screen. Whatever Capone's catalog of sins, it's hard to find much more than disgust or pity for this wounded, diapered animal with only a flickering sense of who he once was.
Maybe what's most frustrating is how much the movie's deeper themes — morality, mortality, the twilight of power — churn intriguingly at the edges of nearly every scene only to turn toward sentiment, or become merely secondary to its relentless focus on his physical decline. There’s merit, of course, in exploring the good and bad in every man, even one as notorious as this one; Capone, in the end, just settles for ugly. C
Capone is currently available across VOD platforms.