Cert – 18, Run-time – 1 hour 43 minutes, Director – Josh Trank
Following the last year of mob-boss Al Capone’s (Tom Hardy) life as he suffers from neurosyphilis and the dementia that it leads to.
When it comes to mob films you may expect a fair deal of bloodshed to feature. Writer-director Josh Trank’s latest certainly contains a fair deal of this, however it also features a fair deal of drool and stool too, as it looks at the last year of the life of Al “Scarface” Capone (Tom Hardy). After being released from prison early a number of years before, due to diminishing health, the once feared mob-boss spends his time in his FBI surveilled Florida mansion. His untreated neurosyphilis getting worse and leading to a stroke he is left in a constantly deteriorating state with increasing dementia. Trank’s film takes place between two Thanksgivings – a time when people say what they’re thankful for in their lives. Over the course of a year those around Capone, called “Fonz” by his friends and family, begin to worry about not just his future but theirs. They insist on selling off the various statues, paintings and artwork across his expansive house – the repetitive corridors getting the better of his hobbling stature.
Capone, most of the time unable to respond, especially with anything lengthy, grumbles and slurs his words. A mixture of English and Italian Hardy’s performance may start off sounding like a gravelly member of the Ant Hill Mob but gradually, as the character’s state decreases and he seemingly becomes more distant from those around him. This includes his wife (Linda Cardellini resigned to the sympathetic wife role) who spends her time on screen worrying and trying to care for and attend her husband, despite his occasional violent, angry outbursts. As the course of the film goes on it becomes apparent that there’s noone to properly connect with and so the drama of the disease isn’t properly felt. It’s not that you can’t feel sympathy for Hardy’s excessively dribbling character because of who he was before going to prison, it’s simply the idea that there doesn’t quite seem to be enough connection with the characters and so you’re simply watching what happens instead of being properly invested in most of the film’s events. On some occasions the film feels more concept than fully-fledged story.
This being said, there are a handful of interesting moments. As Capone’s dementia causes him to experience flashbacks to the crimes of his past he finds himself regressing and becoming more and more violent. His moments of reliving/ flashbacks are certainly interesting and while starting off as something almost like a ballroom scene from The Shining they gradually form into a selection of interesting snapshots. A reminder that this is Al Capone – these are potentially needed every now and then as the mob-boss element and FBI tracking isn’t played upon properly until the second half. It’s this that feels like occasionally there are some details lacking and at times, particularly in the first half, this is only Al Capone because of the lavish setting and the giant cigar permanently rooted in his mouth.
Even during some seemingly out of character moments there’s something of Capone craving for his old life and state back. Even as he stands up and sings along to the Cowardly Lion singing If I Were King Of The Forest in The Wizard Of Oz, a moment that initially creates a chuckle or two before you realise its seriousness/ dramatic elements, the case for one or two moments over the course of the film. There are certainly some interesting moments throughout the film, and often while you have to give them a bit of time to properly develop, they’re enough to make for a decent enough watch. Hardy’s struggling figure, widening and squinting his eyes as he tries to prove life is still in him before giving in through what appears to be pain, might seem like a caricature of an ill gangster, but again does have a bit more too it than that. A character craving, and yet being haunted by, his past. Wanting it back and giving in to it at the same time. It’s absolutely a mixed bag and a lot conflicts and needs a bit more developing. But, for what it is it’s fine enough, if not always feeling like a film about the titular Al Capone.
More concept than story Capone is good for what it provides, but certainly in need of more development. Much like Hardy’s performance, some moments might take a bit of time but eventually find some sort of grounding.