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Tom Hardy Becomes “Capone” For Josh Trank

Al Capone is one of the most legendary mobsters in American history. However, of what we see depicted of him, especially on screen, concerns his “glory” days. The end of his life is rarely spoken of. Enter Josh Trank, who had long yearned to make Fonzo, a biopic of Capone that looked at his end days. Now, re-titled Capone, it comes out this week (specifically on Tuesday) and is pretty out there. With a performance from Tom Hardy that’s all in on the sometimes bizarre premise, he’s returned to the sort of work that he broke through with in Bronson. This will almost certainly prove divisive, but for me, I found it compelling enough to worthy of a recommendation.

The film is a look at the last year in the life of notorious gangster Al Capone (Hardy). At 47 years old, Capone has gone from someone who terrorized Chicago to a feeble man, his mind rotted and warped by a combination of syphilis and dementia, exacerbated by his decade in jail. Now released to live out his days down in Florida, his brain plays tricks on him, mixing his past with the present. As his wife Mae Capone (Linda Cardellini), along with some family and friends, care for him, the FBI surveils. Running through Capone’s mind, besides some utterly bizarre memories, is a fuzzy notion that he’s hidden millions of dollars. The government and fellow mobsters want that money, though how much of that is just figments of his imagination? By the end, you’ll find out, though that ultimately isn’t the focus here. Trank writes and directs (as well as edits), with cinematography by Peter Deming. El-P composed the score. Rounding out the cast are Matt Dillon, Noel Fisher, Mason Guccione, Jack Lowden, Kyle MacLachlan, Kathrine Narducci, and more.

Tom Hardy goes gonzo to play Fonzo. Only sometimes decipherable, Hardy really leans into the decrepit nature of the syphilis ridden Capone. Acting under heavy makeup and clearly portraying a shell of the gangster’s former self, it’s really a sight to behold. Josh Trank asks a lot of him, but Hardy is up to it, for sure. Trank’s direction is pretty solid, though his script is all over the place, sometimes bordering on the incomprehensible (potentially purposefully), so an actor of Hardy’s level was required. The rest of the cast is in his shadow, but that’s likely by design. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him. When Hardy can make a syphilitic man, drooling with a carrot in his mouth, instantly engrossing, you know you have a strong performance on your hands.

Capone represents an interesting passion project for Trank. For a while, it’s not even particularly clear what’s appealed to him here with this story. By the end, however, both his and Hardy’s interest is clear. Now, the method Trank is utilizing here may not appeal to everyone. Hell, it may not even appeal to the majority of viewers, but for those patient and willing to go out on a limb with the filmmaker, they’ll be unconventionally rewarded. That may be a big ask for some, but it’s worth it, at least in my humble opinion. It may not be Oscar worthy, but it’s an odd duck that’s kind of a perfect change of pace flick during these strange times.

Available on May 12th through Vertical Entertainment, Capone is probably not what you’re expecting. For some, that may lead to puzzlement, but for others, including myself, this right turn made for something truly interesting. If you’re intrigued by an unconventional look at Al Capone’s final year on Earth, this is well worth considering. Everything about this one, from the concept to the execution, is unexpected. Give it a look and see what you think. As long as your expectations aren’t too rigid (or tied up in its Academy Award worthiness), you’ll find something rather memorable.

Be sure to check out Capone, out on Digital May 12th!

(Photos courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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