Director Josh Trank’s long-awaited follow-up to the disastrous Fantastic Four (2015) is another disappointing effort overshadowed by Tom Hardy’s over-the-top performance as Chicago mobster Al Capone.
First announced in 2016, the warning signs were there from the get-go when the film’s title suddenly changed from Fonzo to Capone, and production was pushed back two years with filming finally taking place in May of 2019. Things went from bad to worse when hopes of a theatrical release were dashed due to the Coronavirus and Capone limped to video-on-demand.
Taking place during the final year of Capone’s life, with the mob boss slowly losing his mind while succumbing to dementia brought on by syphilis, Hardy’s Capone spends most of his time in a dressing gown drooling and shitting himself (three times I might add) while trying to remember where he’s hidden a $10 million fortune. The Feds are also watching him, believing Capone is faking his illness and hoping to catch him out.
Props to Trank for coming up with an original story about the Chicago mafioso, but similar to Fantastic Four, there’s not much depth to his script. As Hardy’s Capone slowly rots away in both body and mind, the once feared gangster’s past begins to haunt him. A series of flashbacks and dream sequences reveal Capone’s violent past while his interactions with long time friend Johnny (Matt Dillon), that may be a figment of his imagination, shed more light on his mental state.
None of this really matters in the long run, as Capone is all about Hardy’s bonkers performance. The acclaimed actor chews his way through the scenery like it’s his last meal. As has become a Hardy trademark, the actor is heavily made-up and puts on a strange voice (a mix between Bane and James Delaney from Taboo) as he mumbles his way through stilted dialogue. Spitting and coughing while continually chewing on a thick cigar, Hardy is often unintelligible, with the use of subtitles when he’s speaking Italian – something that should have been employed throughout the entire film.
Trank’s assembled a wonderful support cast (Linda Cardellini, Al Sapienza, Kyle MacLachlan) who don’t get much of a look-in due to Hardy’s over-acting. They are playthings in Hardy’s universe and only there to give him something to react too. His performance is sure to be divisive, with some commending his method approach, while others questioning whether he’s becoming a caricature of himself. It’s hard to know if Trank wanted this kind of performance, or if a more nuanced approach could have helped shape a more serious vibe, with Capone often funny (like when he is walking around in a nappy firing a gold Tommy Gun) for the wrong reasons.
Whatever your thoughts, Capone is certainly worth a watch, if only for Hardy’s mind-bending performance and a reminder of what can happen when an actor is allowed to go off the reservation.
The soundtrack is composed by El-P of Run the Jewels fame.