Al Capone was, despite his reputation, not a hardened tough guy. After being incarcerated for tax fraud, he became a frequent target of bullying in prison and relied his cellmate’s protection to get through his time there. Ten years or so into his sentence, the system took pity on him do to his literal degradation from syphilis. He lived the last year of his life in his Florida mansion, where Capone picks up.
Capone is, despite what one might expect, not a biopic. It builds pretty faithfully on accounts of the last year of Capone’s (known as
Fonse during this period) life but is more of a surrealistic horror-drama than anything.
True to reality, both the FBI and Fonse’s inner circle are searching for the ten million dollars the former crime boss was rumored to have hidden on his property. Where it is, no-one knows, and Fonse’s mind is so far gone he barely remembers he ever hid it. Or even if he did.
Fonse is reduced to a shell of a man at this point. He is forced to wear diapers, which he utilizes frequently, and events from his past muddles with reality. Long gone, deceased people come and go, having long conversations with him, often about the lost money.
There is a lot to like about Capone. Particularly Fonse’s dream sequences are fascinating and illustrate how far gone his mind has actually gone. They’re beautifully filmed, too, even though they might be a bit on the nose at times. Fonse has a fascination with The Wizard of Oz; during his dreams, a golden balloon guides him through a labyrinth of corridors. Yellow brick road aside, it’s an eerie sight, his wanderings, and it does illustrate his confusion well.
Portraying the titular character is an almost unrecognizable Tom Hardy. He looks aged and haggard and shows Fonse as a vacant shell. Scenes that otherwise would be considered extreme are delivered with empty, aloof expressions, even uncontrollable defecations. Those scenes could come off as borderline parody, but Hardy is committed to them to a point where they feel uneasy and disturbing.
The supporting cast fares equally well, and particularly Linda Cardellini (recently seen in Dead to Me), delivers a nuanced performance as Fonse’s wife. Kyle MacLachlan, too, does well as the doctor who also works as an informant for the FBI.
As a surreal drama or horror, Capone works well, and it’s too bad some more conventional plotlines are thrown into the mix. This includes an integral part surrounding Fonse’s illegitimate child, which does little to further the main story. It feels like it was lifted from a different script altogether, and comes off as jarring when paired with the dreamlike flow of the main storyline.
Toward the end, I’m not sure Fonse’s actions really make much sense — a scene with a gun comes out from nowhere — and again comes off as something from a different movie. It’s too bad. The juxtaposition between Capone’s two sides ruins a good chunk of the movie’s flow.
It’s still worth watching, Capone. The scenes that work, work almost exceptionally well and Hardy gives it his all. A lesser actor could have made the movie unintentionally funny. If you’re a fan of surrealism, and if you can forgive some slower parts, Capone is fascinating enough to be worth your time.
Letterboxd summary: The 47-year old Al Capone, after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|