Al Capone wanders out of the bushes, a sagging layer around his abdomen, a Tommy Gun ready. And not just any Tommy Gun, but a solid gold Tommy Gun. A carrot clenched between his teeth like a cigar, Capone begins to shoot wildly, groaning, howling, drooling. He slaughters this carrot like a disturbed rabbit and mounts his soiled diaper.
This is Capone, Josh TrankIt’s a strange hybrid that wants to be both a gangster movie and also a horror picture. At the center of it all is Tom hardy, who gets another excuse for using a strange voice. Capone de Hardy is not the legendary gangster at the peak of his Scarface days, but Capone is nearing the end of his life, his mind ravaged by neurosyphilis. Here is a man who will not live his last days with dignity.
Al Capone has been described as a character in numerous entertainment plays, notably by Robert De Niro in The Incorruptibles and by Stephen Graham on HBO Boardwalk empire. But each time Capone shows up in a movie or TV show, he is seen in the prime of his life, and generally described as a stereotypical gangster in flashy suits, dominating his criminal empire.
But we’ve never seen Al Capone as it’s described in Capone. It’s the Capone who has already served his sentence – for tax evasion – and who now spends the days in Florida with his wife (an underemployed Linda Cardellini) For its part. Capone will not be able to enjoy a peaceful retirement because his brain riddled with illnesses sends him slowly to the bottom. Not only is it incontinent – yes, there are several long and uncomfortable scenes where Al Capone shits in this movie, people – it is also subject to hallucinations.
Hallucinations are the meat of this film, allowing Trank to stage horror-style sequences in which Capone is haunted by ghosts from his past. All the terrible things this man has done come back to claim him, trapping him in his personal hell. This makes most of the film a solo show, while Hardy reels, our guide through this hellish world. Sometimes it is visited by others, including Kyle MacLachlan like his doctor, and Matt Dillon like an old gangster buddy. There is also nonsense about a huge sum of money that Capone has hidden in a place that his failing mind can no longer remember. Then there is a side story about one of the gangster’s illegitimate children trying to reconnect with him – a scenario that Trank is trying to tweak for an undeserved pathos.
But this is all a landscape, and you get the feeling that Trank is not interested in any of it. He just wants to send Al Capone through a horror carnival carnival, and Hardy is kind to all of that. An actor who clearly prospers by disappearing into his roles, Hardy becomes as big as possible here, playing to the extreme the madness and confusion of Capone. He drags, he stumbles, he mumbles, he drools. Buried under makeup, there are clichés here where he doesn’t even look human, but instead, like some sort of ancient vampire crawling from his moldy grave.
It’s too theatrical, and not at all concerned with being grounded in reality. And there is something refreshing to see a gangster film filtered through this kind of lens. The facts don’t matter here – it’s normal for Trank to organize strange sequences that have no basis in reality, since much of the story is centered in Capone’s distorted mind. Tidal waves, CGI alligators, characters who cut their own eyeballs from their skulls – when was the last time you saw a gangster movie?
And yet there are times when Capone one has the impression that he could collapse under the weight of his ambition. It’s clearly a low-budget affair, and you can sometimes spot the seams – a quick flashback to Capone a Hardy’s young years in what is probably the worst greasy costume ever made for movies. There is also a first moment involving the character of Dillon who has absolutely no sense in the context of a later scene, almost as if it was something from a first project that Trank had forgotten to cut.
Capone works despite these bumps in the road, mainly because it’s easy to get carried away by Hardy’s gruesome performances and the gothic horror of it all. As he staggers around his giant house in his robe and meets the worried dead, Capone starts to feel like a riff on A Christmas Carol, Scarface replacing the old Scrooge. But there is no buyout here. No last minute reprieve. Unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge, Al Capone can never escape his fate.
/ Film classification: 7 out of 10
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