Five years after Josh Trank derailed a potential franchise reboot of Fantastic Four, the once-promising wunderkind who gave us Chronicle (2012) finally returned to the director’s chair in Capone.
The title, of course, refers to America’s most notorious gangster Al Capone who once ruled the streets of Chicago during the Prohibition era. But instead of detailing his glory days, Josh Trank took the risk by choosing the uncharted territory. And that is focusing on the final year of Capone’s life.
In this biographical drama of sorts, we learn that Capone a.k.a. Fonz (Tom Hardy) has already been released from prison after a decade for tax evasion. He’s now a pale shadow of himself, looking all frail and ill due to neurosyphilis. Under the watchful eyes of federal agents, the dementia-stricken Fonz spends his time retiring in his Florida mansion with his faithful wife Mae (Linda Cardellini). The movie also revealed he has an illegitimate son Tony (Mason Guccione) and at one point, he reconnects with his old mob associate Johnny (Matt Dillon) and spills a secret about a US$10 million hidden somewhere. The only problem is, he has forgotten where he put it.
Both of the plot devices related to Fonz’s illegitimate son and particularly, the introduction of Johnny and the mysterious US$10 million stash sound intriguing. But Trank merely introduced them without a proper resolution. Given Fonz’s dementia and the way he tends to get wildly delusional, Trank tries to take advantage of his character’s mental condition by approaching the film in a fragmented and dreamlike manner. More like taking place within Fonz’s state of mind, where everything is open to interpretation between reality and fantasy. It does work but only in a certain capacity, namely the extended dream sequence where Fonz finds himself in a ballroom party and has Louis Armstrong (Troy Warren Anderson) singing “Blueberry Hill” on the stage.
Other times, the plot veers off course every now and then. And all the numerous what’s-real-and-what’s-not hallucinating moments aren’t enough to mask the fact that Capone feels dull even the movie only runs at an economical 104-minute length.
Then, there’s Tom Hardy. The chameleon actor famously known for his method acting gives his all to portray the titular character. But the result is somewhat mixed and while I appreciate Hardy’s total commitment, he comes across as unintentionally goofy. This is particularly evident with his bizarre mix of an extremely croaky voice and soft murmur reminiscent of the older Nick Nolte and the late Marlon Brando while sounding like a cartoon version of a mob character. It’s really hard to take him seriously and more so with the heavy prosthetic makeup that looks too obvious and distracting. I couldn’t help thinking that his appearance reminds me of someone who’s better off appearing in a Dick Tracy movie instead.
The supporting cast, in the meantime, fares surprisingly better with Linda Cardellini brings solid support to her otherwise thankless role as Mae. The same goes to Matt Dillon playing the mysterious Johnny while Kyle MacLachlan shows up in a small but effective role as Fonz’s doctor, Karlock.
So much for Trank’s long-awaited return to the big screen (even though that original plan was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic and now released in a straight-to-digital format). Make no mistake, a movie like Capone that explored the lesser-known final year of the Chicago’s fearsome gangster has all the making of a potentially great film. But what we have here is more of a half-baked effort that feels strangely incomplete and hollow in most parts.