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Capone (2020) Review

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Capone

Time: 116 Minutes
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Fonse
Linda Cardellini as Mae
Matt Dillon as Johnny
Al Sapienza as Ralphie
Kathrine Narducci as Rosie
Noel Fisher as Junior
Director: Josh Trank

The 47-year old Al Capone (Tom Hardy), after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past.

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I was curious about Capone, it had been announced and made a while ago, and finally we get to see what it is. Fonzo (retitled to Capone for commercial purposes)) would be director Josh Trank’s next movie after Fant4stic, a movie that was infamously known for having a lot of studio interference. Trank had a lot to prove after that, and decided to set his sights on a movie about Al Capone in his last year of his life. With him having made like 1.5 movies, I was expecting something more conventional, but it turned out to be something quite different. The response to the movie has been rather mixed, but I’m glad to be on the side of people who liked it.

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There’s a lot of things that you need to know before watching Capone. First of all, despite the title, don’t expect a full on Al Capone movie. I heard that Josh Trank had issues with renaming Fonzo to Capone, and watching the movie I can see why. Along with the lead character generally being referred to as “Fonze” or “Fonzo” over the course of the movie, with the new title, it really gave the impression that this would be at the very least a straightforward biopic. It’s a biopic in the loosest sense of the word, as I said earlier it is about Capone’s last year of his life as he is suffering from dementia and syphilis, and that’s pretty much all that happens in that movie. There’s a subplot whereby Al Capone hid some money and forgot where it was, and another where the FBI is surveying him because the suspect that he might be faking his illness, but those are only small parts of the plot. For a movie that’s seemingly intended on being more psychological than a full on biopic, those aspects feels tact on, however I know that it was needed as that probably what happened in real life. Probably my biggest disappointment of the movie is that while it does have some unusual stuff, it does feel like it is consciously partly a biopic, and does at times seem to be going through the motions to meet that. Those previously mentioned subplots feel obligatory, as it’s pretty clear that Trank is a lot more interested in other aspects. Capone suffers from hallucinations, and storywise that interested me the most in the movie. There is a specific section around halfway through that was the highlight, as Capone goes through an extended nightmare/dream sequence that is something straight out of a haunted house movie like The Shining or something.

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Another thing that is worth noting is that it is a slow movie and not a lot happens, although I was still on board throughout (that first act does drag quite a bit however). It’s not particularly pleasant to watch either, the very few scenes of violence that are there are brutal, and you are basically watching the main character succumb to dementia further over the course of the film. So for those hoping for a straightforward biopic of Al Capone, there are no doubt other representations of him on the big screen that might better suit what you’re looking for. If you want to know more about him this certainly isn’t the movie for you. Now the question is what the point of the movie is. If it’s to watch a man who has done horrible things being haunted with such things while suffering from illnesses, then Trank succeeded in that, but otherwise I’m not really sure. What kept me on board for the whole thing was the directions that he decided to take the movie. If it was meant to be a character piece or something, I feel like it was missing something. We see him declining, and we see some visions of what happened while he was in his prime, but we don’t really learn anything about him at the same time. Nonetheless it was interesting to watch.

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The acting is generally quite good. The supporting cast is good with Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher and Kyle MacLachlan doing well in their smaller roles. Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon were the standouts among the supporting cast. Dillon makes the most of his screentime as an associate of Capone, and Cardellini provides the closest thing to an emotional centre of the movie as Capone’s wife, which was needed considering who the protagonist of the whole movie is. However it is absolutely the Tom Hardy show, and he gives his most insane and crazy performance of his entire career as the title character, and that’s saying a lot considering he was in Bronson and Venom, I can certainly say it’s the most acting he’s done in a single performance. Before watching the movie, there was a couple of clips I saw before the movie that certainly gave me pause, he was unintentionally hilarious in them, and he’s kind of like that throughout much of the film. It works better when you watch the movie in its entirety. However it still takes you a while to settle in, especially with the makeup making him look like a demonic vampire and his voice sounding like a mix of Donald Duck, Nick Nolte, and Danny Devito’s The Penguin. Some of his outbursts still were unintentionally funny, but it worked better in the weird tone of the movie. Overall while I can say that I liked his performance, his over the top ‘acting’ moments didn’t work quite as well as the comparatively ‘quieter’ moments for me. He is definitely putting everything into this performance (for better and for worse) and was one of the stand out parts of the film.

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I already knew this from his work on Chronicle, but Josh Trank has shown himself to be a capable director. It’s shot and filmed well generally, but for the most part the technical side is just competent and nothing special. Interestingly, the editing is done by Trank of all people, no doubt wanting to ensure that he wouldn’t be caught in another Fant4stic situation. With that said, it is a little disjointed, and while I get that part of it was purposeful with this being from the perspective of a man slowly losing sense of everything, I’m not sure that was necessarily intentional all the way through. Where the film shines is when it leant into the weirdness, mainly with the hallucinations and dream sequences. The aforementioned dream scene halfway into the movie was a shining aspect, and had Trank committed to more of those sorts of scenes, I think that it could’ve been better.

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Capone won’t work for all people, in fact it won’t work for most people. There are aspects that are unpolished and messy, it might be too gross and gnarly for some people, and I don’t think it quite sticks the landing in what Josh Trank intended. However, despite its flaws I think the movie is decent. The acting is good, with the performance from Tom Hardy being a highlight, and I liked the places that it was taken. As weird as the movie got at points, I kind of wish it went further, as those were definitely the best parts of the movie. What this shows is that Trank has a talent and a vision, and Chronicle wasn’t a fluke. I’d love to see what he does next, especially if he’s not tied down with adapting anything this time.