Review: Capone is as confused as its addle-brained subject

What’s up, Tom?

That Capone is said to be writer-director Josh Trank’s passion project is as confusing as it is that anyone agreed to make it at all. One has to imagine Trank strutting into a producer’s office and something like this happening.

Trank: So my pitch is—and I’m really excited about this—a movie about Al Capone.

Producer: Oooh, like a true crime biopic charting the rise and fall of Public Enemy Number One?

Trank: Uh, no, this would take place after all the crime, when Capone was in his final year alive.

Producer: Ah, like The Irishman! An old gangster wistfully looks back with remorse upon the violence he—

Trank: Actually, at that point, Capone’s brain was utterly ravaged by syphilis, so this would just be watching a sweaty, near-bedridden galoot munching on soggy cigars, dripping in sweat, throwing up, spitting, crapping his pants, wetting himself with his pus-filled piss—but mostly just sitting there staring, eyes wide and horrifically bloodshot, scowling at hallucinations. All the red-eyed gangster paranoia of the Goodfellas finale, but now imagined, revolting, and crippled in more ways than one.

Producer: Okay, so what is the takeaway from this movie?

Trank: Well, since the syphilis was more or less a real-life deus ex machina that in no way gives his tragic ending a moral of any kind… I guess it’s just sort of a PSA for penicillin?

Producer: I have to say, that’s a tough sell. But you are the man who made 2015’s disastrous Fantastic Four, and there are infamous rumors of your unprofessional, erratic behavior on that production, so yes. Here’s $20 million.

After being so often squandered and covered in Christopher Nolan films, Tom Hardy’s hot dog lips are finally given the role they were plumped for here as Hardy commits whole-hog (for better and worse) to the film’s title character. The actor previously teased that he studied Bugs Bunny for his latest of so many unplaceable accents, but it feels like there’s a new crazy vocal reference point in every other scene. Is he Cobra Commander doing Brando? A masculine Mama Fratelli? An American Wario (who still arbitrarily peppers in some actual Italian)? Or, as signaled by his ever-deteriorating, grotesque devolution, is this Hardy’s homage to Howard the Duck‘s Dr. Walter Jennings?

Likewise as inscrutable is the movie itself. It’s too narrow and uninformative to feel like much of a biopic; it never gets far enough beneath Hardy’s gross skin prosthetics to become a character study; and the entire plot can be summed up as, “Al Capone is mush-brained, doesn’t go anywhere, and shits the bed.” Same can be said of Trank’s film.

Trank’s dramatic re-imagining of The Godfather‘s infamous horse head scene.

Grade: D+

Josh Trank
Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Runtime: 103 minutes
Rating: R
Cast: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Matt Dillon, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher

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