Some spoilers included past the video.
Just how did Al Capone live out the last year of his life? Did he slowly fade into senility due to stage three syphilis — or was it all an act? The trailer for Capone suggests that the most famous mobster of his time pulled a Vincent Gigante before The Chin ever thought of it, using the ruse of dementia to look for $10 million Capone — “Fonse,” to his family — managed to keep hidden from the feds in his tax-evasion trial.
Can Capone remember where he hid the money, or will his illness get the best of him first? And … is that what Capone is really about?
The film described in the trailer sounds like it has some promise. The film viewers actually get to see squanders it. Rather than any kind of caper film, Capone instead turns into a deeply unpleasant look at a deeply unpleasant man descending into dementia while being perhaps just aware enough of it to torture him. Almost the entire film takes place inside the Capone mansion, making us feel as quarantined as we already do in real life. The film spends more time on eruptions of Capone’s bodily functions than it does on the mythical $10 million.
That’s unfortunate in one aspect, as Capone appears to have spent the money for a good film. The estimated budget was just over $20 million, and got put to good use with an excellent cast. Tom Hardy gets a thankless task in playing Fonse and makes the most of it, but the mannerisms of a dementia patient get tiresome all too soon. Linda Cardellini provides the most humanity in a solid performance as his wife Mae, with Al Sapienza and Kathrine Narducci serviceable in smaller roles as Ralphie and Rosie, whose relationship to Fonse never gets an explanation. Kyle McLachlan has a smaller but critical role as a doctor who’s getting threatened to push Fonse into revealing where the money is, but that subplot goes nowhere, which makes McLachlan’s role a Macguffin at best. Ditto for an overblown cameo from Matt Dillon as Capone’s friend and mentor “Johnny” (presumably Torrio), which also goes nowhere but in a more horrific fashion. (Note: the actual Torrio outlived Capone and died of a heart attack while waiting for a haircut.)
Other than the scenery at Capone’s Florida mansion, the performances are all that makes Capone worth watching. The script is a mess, with subplots appearing and disappearing as often as Fonse’s memory. The mythical $10 million pops up from time to time, but so does a weird thread about a son Capone may or may not have had out of wedlock, leading to all sorts of angst within the family. All the while Hardy growls at everyone while staring out through bloody eyeballs with a sense of anger and confusion at all of it, at least when he’s not losing control of his excretory functions.
One has to wonder what another director might have done with this material. David Lynch, for example, could have made this into a quasi-masterpiece by making it into a Mulholland Drive-esque puzzler blending fantasy and reality. Francis Ford Coppola could have given it a mythic, Shakespearean-tragedy feel. Instead, Josh Trank (Fantastic Four) opts to play it straight, leaving us with nothing much more than the final decaying stage of a decadent, evil man who appears to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
By the end, we finally realize that we’ve all been caught up in the cinematic version of Geraldo Rivera’s famous journalistic pratfall. We’ve all gone on a treasure hunt in Capone’s vault, only to find nothing there — and no indication that there was anything there to find at all, ever.
Using the Hot Air scale for films already on home theater platforms, Capone gets a 2, but only for the performances:
- 4 – Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD
- 3 – Worth a rental price or pay-per-view
- 2 – Wait for it to come on a TV channel you already get
- 1 – Avoid at all costs
Capone is rated R for graphic violence, language, and a few other graphically represented events. It’s not appropriate for teenagers, nor would the subject of Al Capone interest them much anyway, at least not in its ending.