Last year’s Capone was met with less than stellar responses in its limited release. Yet another feature scheduled for a global movie theatre release that didn’t make it due to COVID related cancellations. Now it receives its debut streaming gig with it making its way onto Netflix.
Josh Trank’s biopic of the infamous Mafioso, was somewhat of a do-over for the director. After his 2015 Fantastic 4 reboot was panned by critics and general audiences alike, this was a chance to really demonstrate what he can do when he has full creative control of the material, and is able to make the movie his way.
Capone has received plenty of interpretations over the years on both the big and small screen. Usually representing the notorious gangster during his high life, but Josh Trank goes bold by showing us Capone in his final year. After being released from prison for his tax evasion charges, the once feared and revered king of the mob underworld, becomes merely a fraction of his younger self. Battling with dementia, amongst other underlying health issues, Capone lives out his most testing times in his Florida home surrounded by family and with the authorities close by. What they’re after is the burial ground of Capone’s final fortune. A huge stack of cash that he had buried before his arrest over 10 years prior. But with his current condition worsening, if they don’t find the location quick, the money will be long lost.
Where a lot of the criticism comes from, and to a certain degree I can find myself agreeing with, is that the subject matter is not particularly interesting. We usually associate Capone as a criminal mastermind. Ruthless, brutal and calculated. Cigar in mouth and a tommy gun in his hands. But it’s safe to say that we’ve seen that scenario played out many times. Not even just with Capone either, but a plethora of criminals over the decades have had their stories bought to the big screen. So why not be bold and take on some challenging material.
In regards to Trank’s direction, I personally believe there’s little more he could’ve done that a higher esteemed director would be capable of. It’s a hard concept to grasp and doesn’t immediately jump out at you as something that needed telling. It ambles through the material, where we see Capone’s mental state deteriorating, and as a result so does the loss of general interest in the events that are playing out.
When we’re not seeing Tom Hardy slur through his words as he struggles to string a coherent sentence together, we’re greeted by some alluring and well shot sequences which take us back to Capone’s more callous days. Perhaps with more of these moments, we would get that raw, more impactful experience that you would expect to take away from a movie of this calibre.
Tom Hardy is perhaps his most animated but menacing here as Al Capone. Not his first outing as a notorious gangster and will most likely not be his last. He certainly gets some interesting moments here. Mainly parading around in his robe, wearing adult diapers and sucking on carrot cigars. We also get the darker moments which take us into his more violent days and even giving us a scene that has him emptying the rounds of his gold plated tommy gun into his home, fleeting family members and servants.
If people head into this film expecting to see the Capone during his glory days then you’re likely to be left disappointed. This is about the mentally damaged and lonely man he became towards the end of his life. Much like the Capone we see through Hardy’s performance, it can feel sluggish and at times difficult to sit through. Not helped by the fact it’s pretty much a one man show as the surrounding characters are given little to nothing to do and fail to bring significance to its narrative progression.
Josh Trank’s Capone may tell an unfamiliar story, but by the end it lacks a real sense of purpose. Whilst there’s an intriguing sub plot about some buried money, its almost completely swept under the rug in favour of a darker look into dementia and mentally declining health. I’m not entirely sure what Trank was going for here as it feels muddled beyond leaning heavily on the shoulders of Tom Hardy’s performance. There are some glimmers of gold scattered here and there and Hardy offers a performance worthy of digging Trank out of director jail. It’s just a shame that it didn’t capitalise on its other varying strengths.