Al Capone was a legend. His name is synonymous with organised crime in the early 20th century. Countless movies have adapted his story from 1932’s Scarface to 1987’s The Untouchables. These have reinforced the idea of Al Capone as an organised crime powerhouse. Capone, directed by Josh Trank, attempts something different and in the process gives the audience a new look at this notorious gangster. Depending on who you are, the results of this experiment will wildly differ from person to person.
Capone swings for the fences. In what could be called a bold and unpredictable move, Trank decides not to focus on Capone in his prime but rather in the final year of his life as he was succumbing to syphilis and dementia. Portrayed in this incarnation by Tom Hardy, Capone presents him as a man truly falling apart inside and out. The film regularly challenges its audience with deducting what is real and what is fantasy in a truly fantastical way. Those looking for a serious, accurate look into the famous mobster’s life need not apply.
Hardy absolutely shines in his portrayal of Capone, giving us a man whose body and mind are broken beyond repair. Not for the weak of stomach, his portrayal regularly sees him urinating and defecating on himself while mumbling obscenities to ghosts of his past and present. Hardy truly embraces his role as “the pee pee poo poo man” quite literally and the film benefits from it. Starring alongside him is Linda Cardellini as Mae Capone, Al’s faithful wife, who provides a down to earth outside perspective into the goings on of the film. The audience can truly empathise with her because like her, they don’t understand what’s going on with her husband. Matt Dillon rounds out the cast as Johnny, a mobster from Capone’s prime, and provides some much needed human moments for the character. Overall, there is some fantastic acting going on from the main players here.
Where the film suffers is in the editing and writing. Though one could be quick to point out that the editing style could be a stylistic choice to match the unstable nature of the main character, Capone truly feels incomprehensible at times due to its frantic, uneven editing and pacing. Numerous times I found myself wishing someone other than Trank had edited the film, because solid editing truly would have been beneficial here. The script on the other hand is just as wild and frantic going from some truly laugh out moments, to borderline horrifying, to flat out gross moments all within a 10 minute span. While it is ambitious, ambition only gets you so far. Had the script been a bit reigned in or a bit more wild, we’d have something truly special on our hands. As it is now it’s just in the middle of the road.
Capone proves that Trank does potentially have another good film in him, but also proves that he has another potential disaster in him as well. Trank swings for the fences in what many would call one of the more unique mobster movies in some time. Upheld by fantastic performances from it’s lead cast and some interesting choices, Capone could’ve been something great, instead it just ends up being middling. I respect what Josh Trank is trying to accomplish here and it’s nice to see him get back on his feet after the disastrous Fant4stic in 2015. He has a lot of potential and talent, lets just hope his next project is a little more focused and consistent.
Capone is available on VOD in the US now
by Reyna Cervantes