- Emma Simmonds
- 26 February 2021
Misjudged biopic from Josh Trank, featuring outlandish work from Tom Hardy
Centred around what he clearly hoped would be a bravura turn from Tom Hardy as the titular American gangster, Josh Trank's biopic was always going to live or die on the strength of its lead performance. Hardy is a charismatic actor who isn't averse to going 'big' and he's had some success with that – rising above mediocre material in both Bronson and Legend for instance – but his Al Capone is an almost comically croaky cartoon character, who mesmerises for all the wrong reasons.
Set during the final year of his life, the film finds a post-imprisonment Capone (referred to here as Fonse) living in exile in a palatial property in Florida. As sculptures and paintings are flogged off due to financial pressures, it's as if the former Chicago crime lord's empire is being dismantled around him, whilst his body and mind are prematurely decaying. Not yet 50, he's been diminished by neurosyphilis and dementia, and is plagued by paranoia, confusion and hallucinations.
Watching this 'great' man brought low isn't as interesting as writer-director Trank (Chronicle, Fantastic Four) thinks it is. It's a film that strips away many of the exciting elements of a gangster film, whilst lacking the chops to illuminate its subject psychologically. Things get very ponderous and indulgent (in a sub Sopranos and Godfather way) as we're immersed in Capone's delusions, fantasies and nightmarish recollections. Much of the film is handsome enough and the supporting cast, which includes Linda Cardellini as his wife Mae, Matt Dillon as a colleague and Kyle MacLachlan as his doctor, give far more restrained and fitting performances, emerging with their dignity intact.
With Capone often framed to loom grotesquely large, this only emphasises the caricatured nature of Hardy's work. And with scenes that see the mobster quack like a duck, replace his cigar with a carrot, dress as a lady to evade surveillance on a fishing trip, and sing a song from The Wizard of Oz, the film is often flat-out bizarre. Viewers will inevitably be drawn to this one out of curiosity but, while sometimes fascinating or funny in the sheer scale of its misjudgement, Capone is mainly just a slog.
Available to watch on Netflix now.