Capone review: A dreadfully meandering exercise in misery

Capone. Image Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Capone. Image Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment /

For better or for worse, Tom Hardy gives it his all in Capone, but the film is just too aimless and uncomfortable to be a worthwhile viewing experience.

Slow, senile, and uninteresting are three words that don’t immediately come to mind when we think of Al Capone, history’s most notorious gangster. The man who launched an entire genre full of high-speed chases, campy accents, and near-constant tommy gun fire has been the subject of many a biopic, but we can confidently say that there have been none to tackle his life like Josh Trank’s Capone.

Starring Tom Hardy as the film’s titular gangster (referred to only by his nickname “Fonz”), Capone tells the story of the final years of Al Capone’s life — a time soaked in misery and suffering as he deteriorates from a combination of syphilis and dementia, whittling away until he’s nothing more than a grumbling bag of flesh being wheeled from room to room, cursing at gardeners and smoking cigars.

It’s an admittedly interesting concept — to explore the final (and much lesser-chronicled) chapter of Capone’s life, but the film itself falls flat in every possible way. By riding the line between a psychological thriller and a slow-paced biopic,Capone simultaneously spends too much time in his psyche (which results in us not caring about the stakes of the real world) while also putting an unnecessary amount of stock in a McGuffin hunt, which distracts from what could have been a noteworthy look into the unraveling mind of a once-fearsome man.

In terms of positives, the film has all the trappings it needed to succeed, including a stellar cast, of course, led by Tom Hardy, who gives 110 percent percent as Al Capone, whether or not it was truly needed. His Capone rides the line between a paranoid mastermind straight out of The Godfather and a senile relic who grunts, farts, and burps his way through a nearly two-hour film, which, at times, makes him seem more like Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny than a world-class gangster.

Aside from all of the completely unnecessary gross-out scenes (which pad the runtime and do nothing for the film except further push away its already wary viewers), Tom Hardy gives a solid performance, although it’s buried under prosthetics and makeup, and he’s given so little actual dialogue that, on the whole, his commitment to the part feels over the top when compared with the rest of the cast.

Speaking of which, the supporting cast is one of the film’s few highlights — most notably, Linda Cardellini and Kyle MacLachlan. Cardellini plays Capone’s wife Mae, who has all the fire you’d expect from a mob wife, but she also has a deep sadness to her, and a constant, unspoken weight from watching her husband become a shriveled husk of his once-great self. Mae is the emotional core of the film, and although Cardellini doesn’t give as aggressive of a performance as Hardy does, it’s much more impactful because of how well the character is written in relation to Capone.

The other standout of the cast is Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Capone’s physician Doctor Karlock. MacLachlan brings his usual charm and provides the film with it’s a most memorable scene: an encounter where he tells the family that Capone needs to stop smoking cigars and suggests carrots as an alternative. In addition to adding to the precious few moments of humor, Karlock also has a few hints at his own plot, but it’s so underbaked that it feels more like a loose end than anything else.

As for the rest of the cast they’re mostly interchangeable — just members of Capone’s family with hokey accents, and a gaggle of government employees on Capone’s tail, except there’s not much of a chase, because whenever a question is asked, it’s almost immediately answered. Like Karlock’s side story, the main mystery about a supposed hidden stash of money is half-baked at best and a complete waste of time at worst, and does absolutely nothing for the plot except keeping the audience around for an extra 45 minutes.

While Capone does try to get psychological at some points — there’s a fairly solid dream/memory sequence that’s interesting and seems to be leading somewhere — that aspect too isn’t given enough time because the film thinks it needs to include the money plot, and as such, the audience isn’t invested in the psychology when the film wants us to care.

In the end, Capone is an extreme disappointment — a waste of a strong cast and an intriguing premise on what amounts to a two-hour montage of a senile old man wallowing in his own filth and misery.

Next. 40 must-watch movies to consider yourself a film buff. dark

What did you think of Capone? What’s your favorite Tom Hardy Performance? Sound off in the comments below.