Capone Movie Review: Tom Hardy Can’t Save This Messy Gangster Drama

dusts off the keyboard

It has been more than six months since this website received a written review, but what better way to change that than with a new movie starring Tom Hardy that is now available on video on demand services at a time when a global pandemic is keeping most people inside (while also shutting down movie theaters). Enter Capone.

The biographical film centers on the final year of Al Capone, one of America’s biggest crime lords who led one of Chicago’s most prominent gangs during the the mid-1900s. Instead of Capone showing this rise to power or explore what led to his arrest in 1931, this movie centers on the final year that Al – or Fonz as he is strictly called throughout – lived before he died in 1947. Although there are flashbacks and dream sequences of past events, the old, decrepit version of Fonz is the one who Hardy plays throughout Capone.

For better or worse, Hardy is the reason to watch Capone. He’s covered in makeup/prosthetic and really commits to a role that is strangely comedic. The effort is commendable, especially as Capone forces him into some bizarre sequences. The deteriorated mental state of Fonz makes him a bit crazy, forgetful, and paranoid, which each bring a different tone to the movie. The result is as mixed as one would expect, with serious moments interrupted with Capone wetting or pooping himself.

What further muddies the product is the mumbling, incomprehensible voice Hardy uses throughout most of Capone. If you couldn’t understand him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, good luck making it through this movie without turning on the subtitles. Through it all though, Hardy carries the film on his shoulders. Linda Carellini, hot off of Dead to Me season 2 (which you should watch right now!), gets the most to do from the supporting cast, but this is really Hardy’s showcase from beginning to end.

In a lot ways, Capone reminded me of another biographical film Hardy starred in, Bronson. Both films feature captivating, wide-ranging, and raw performances by Hardy, but neither are able to fully form around him. With Capone, it is writer-director (and editor) Josh Trank who is unable to make the film achieve its potential. The narrative is thin, making this more of a character study about a dying gangster reflecting on his regrets. There are some interesting ideas included, but its still difficult to have any care (much less sympathy) for Capone. Someone being stabbed in the neck 50 times is a horrifying act to witness, and even Hardy plays the memory as a surprise, but it primarily further cements why Capone is a bad guy instead of conveying the trauma he now feels.

It’s difficult to watch Capone and figure out exactly what Trank was going for with the film, as he’s even described it as something that doesn’t exist within any predetermined genres. This more avante-garde approach is honorable, but it just simply didn’t work for me. After catching Trank’s directorial debut Chronicle several years ago, I was ecstatic to see what he would do next. He signed on to a Boba Fett movie and directed a Fantastic Four reboot featuring a great collection of ascending stars, but his Marvel experiment was a huge flop after he clashed with the studio over the final product, and he eventually left the galaxy far, far away behind too.

With some wounds from the Hollywood studio system, it isn’t surprising to see Trank wear so many hats for Capone to get his vision (and cut) out to the world. But, one can’t help but wonder if the inputs of another writer or editor could’ve changed Capone for the better. There are glimpses of the promise Trank showed as a director years ago, so many this film will be the beginning of a proper return to form down the road.

So, is Capone worth checking out on VOD? The $9.99 rental price tag is a bit steep for what is offered and the same is true of the $14.99 price to own. In this case, neither can be recommended here for the majority. If you happened to see the Capone trailer and liked it or are a massive Hardy fan, then my lack of enthusiasm for the film shouldn’t stop you from checking it out. I just can’t in good conscious advise you that Capone will be worth your money or time.

2 out of 5 ticket stubs

Capone is rated R for strong/bloody violence, pervasive language and some sexuality

Share your thoughts on the movie in the comments below, with me on Twitter @MovieCooper, or follow along with everything I’m watching on Letterboxd.

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