Netflix UK film review: Capone (2020)
James R | On 25, Feb 2021
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Jack Lowden
Watch Capone online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“You sound like a dying horse,” someone tells Al Capone in Capone, Josh Trank’s unusual gangster biopic starring Tom Hardy. The Locke and Inception star has a particular line in playing dubious male figures from history, from the Krays in Legend to Bronson in the film of the same name. While those productions saw Hardy immerse himself in questionable acts, unsettling morals and intimidating physicality, Capone sees him immersed in distracting prosthetics and an even more distracting rasping voice. Once his former associate, played by Matt Dillon, points out the similarity to an ill-fated equine, it’s hard to shake it from your head.
Capone takes us past the Chicago crime lord’s heyday to his 40s, at the point at which he was a diminished shell of his former shelf. Suffering from syphilis and living with dementia, he’s let out of prison by authorities deeming him no longer a threat, and so he lives out his days in Florida, surrounded by concerned family members, including his wife, Mae (Linda Cardellini). Early on, we discover that he buried a stash of millions of dollars, but can’t remember where – and while that sounds like it’s going to be the basis of a low-key thriller, it becomes the embodiment of the film in another way entirely, as the whole thing slides into a confusing muddle of forgotten purpose and little reward.
Hardy gives it his all, dribbling, sweating and urinating his way through every scene – there isn’t a bodily fluid he doesn’t leave out there on the floor. But he’s an overpowering presence in search of direction and, while Trank’s visuals are often stylish and evocative, his bold decision to reframe this “Fonse” firmly away from his happy days sadly just doesn’t pay off. There are moments of intrigue and flashes of potential, particularly when Kyle MacLachlan as a doctor and Jack Lowden as an FBI agent begin to circle the once-powerful villain, but there are also scenes in which farting seems to replace words or in which a doctor suggests Al holds a carrot in place of a cigar without a hint of wry humour.
The result is an interesting but undoubtedly uneven experimental project, one that can’t decide whether we should find Tom Hardy’s gangster tragic or funny – and a sequence in which he sings along to The Wizard of Oz won’t help you make up your mind. Later, Fonse compares Mae to an angel with broken wings. You half expect him to break out into singing Mr Mister.
Capone is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.