His name is legendary, his actions were brutal, and his crimes have been portrayed in films, books, and TV series. Lets’s face it, there is something intriguing about Alphonse “Al” Capone. Whether it’s his publicly violent gang feud with Bugs Moran, the scars that nicknamed him Scarface, the speculation he was involved in a gruesome murder of seven men on Valentine‘s Day (later to be dubbed the Valentine‘s Day Massacre), or the simple fact that he was sent to prison for tax evasion. Al Capone’s ten year rein as a young, infamous gangster has been the subject of Hollywood mob boss storytelling for several decades. However 2020’s Capone takes a different approach in revisiting the mobster’s life in solely focusing on the final year of his life.
The Plot :
Set after his 11 year prison stint in Alcatraz, Capone is released early due to his progressive diagnosis of neurosyphilis. We first get a glimpse of Al Capone (Tom Hardy) as he now resides in his Florida estate with his wife Mae (Lina Cardellini). He succumbs to the reality that he will be driven into insanity. Capone struggles with the aftermath of financial bankruptcy as his family begins to sell his precious collections of paintings, statues, and furniture. All while his mind begins to collapse, distorting his known reality with murderous memories and ghostly people.
While madness progresses, Capone slips into a panic when he reveals to his pal Jonny that he stashed away a large sum of money from government officials, his family, and other members from the mob. Unfortunately he can’t remember where it is. With his time on Earth quickly running out, Capone frantically searches for his own buried treasure while not trying to cause suspicion.
Suffering from a few strokes, Capone is no longer equipped to handle the fractures of his life and dives into paranoia. Taking actions into his own hands, Capone leads a one man charge against everyone around him, including himself.
Before it’s initial release Capone’s original movie title was Fonzo, and while it’s not a crime to change the name, there should be a charge against the film for hardly referencing the gangster by his actual name (Al or Capone). Even with a much better title, you are quick to notice the repetitive use of Fonse instead Capone which makes you feel that the writers were really persistent for the audience to think of Capone as Fonse.
Written, directed and edited by Josh Trank ( 2015’s reboot of Fantastic Four, Chronicle), Capone has been categorized as a biographical crime-drama, and while there’s evidence of Capone’s misplaced fortune, the film’s main plot of his delusions during the final year of his life is purely speculation.
Tom Hardy is known for his extreme method acting and all around great performances (Lawless anyone). However, in his portrayal of Al Capone it felt that he was a bit over the top. While it is known the the real Capone had a raspy voice, even high pitched, Hardy’s portrayal felt, at times, a bit cartoonish (it reminded me of the Penguin in the 1989 film Batman Returns). This of course made it difficult to really feel any remorse towards Capone who ultimately is a criminal and murderer.
If there was to be a true star that stole the show it would be Linda Cardellini as Capone’s loyal wife, Mae. Cardellini felt more authentic than Hardy and you were really able to see her strength and struggle as she had to deal with her husband’s deterioration by this devastating illness.
As much as I would love to say that Capone is a glorious masterpiece that depicts the notorious gangster in the best possible way, it falls extremely short. However, there a bit of redemption that lies in Capone’s delusions. From scene to scene it increasingly becomes harder to tell what is a part of Capone’s mental deterioration, and what is real. This give the movie the feel of a psychological thriller.
In truth, the concept of Capone is a unique one. It’s not very often we get down and dirty into mental health especially when they feature such an iconic gangster at his lowest. Unfortunately, I felt this movie could of used a glimpse into Capone’s earlier life. Yes, many know the infamous backstory of the Chicago gangster, but without that visual connection Capone felt like a sad and depressing look into the life of a man slowing going insane. It made the movie lackluster and at times hard to watch. With a run time of 1hr and 43mins, Capone is a basically film full of grunts, snarls, and deep stares into space.
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