Writer/director/editor Josh Trank has had a rough go of it the past few years. He was poised to set the cinematic scene ablaze after his found footage superhero flick “Chronicle” dropped in 2012. The movie was low budget while simultaneously being commercially and critically successful. Trank followed this up with 2015’s “Fantastic Four,” which was meddled with by 20th Century Fox. Gossip emerged from the “F4” set that Trank was acting erratically and trashed the rental house he stayed in during filming. The box office and critical reception of “F4” in conjunction with rumor mill grist got Trank jettisoned from a Boba Fett “Star Wars” flick he was signed to do with Lucasfilm. Trank has recently come forward to say he quit the Boba project as opposed to being fired. Over this same period of time Trank was also married and divorced. Trank has emerged on the other side with “Capone,” which released on VOD on Tuesday, May 12. He has said he had complete control over the project and that this is his director’s cut. I take no joy in saying this as I don’t wanna kick someone while they’re down, but if “Capone” is evidence of Trank’s unchecked artistic id I now better understand Fox’s intervention. “Capone” is a movie that both literally and figuratively shits the bed.
Tom Hardy stars as the titular infamous gangster in the last year of his life. Capone’s body and brain have been ravaged by the effects of syphilis. He’s living in retirement down in Florida with his wife, Mae (Linda Cardellini), and son, Junior (Noel Fisher, who played Michelangelo in the Michael Bay-produced “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies). Capone is looked after by his doctor, Karlock (Kyle MacLachlan), as well as the men in his employ, Ralphie (Al Sapienza, Mikey Palmice from “The Sopranos”) and Gino (Gino Cafarelli). They’re not the only ones checking in on Capone – he’s being surveilled by the FBI in the form of Crawford (promising young British actor Jack Lowden from “Fighting with My Family” and “Dunkirk”), who suspects that Fonzo has stashed $10 million in illicit cash somewhere on his estate.
Hardy alternates between inspired and insipid as Capone. He’s far too good of an actor to be boring, but it’s arguable he should’ve been reigned in a bit. Incessantly decked out in silk pajamas that he often pisses or shits, Hardy’s Capone comes across like Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison during a bender on more than one occasion. Hardy is fond of funky accents as evidenced by his turns in “Bronson” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” His Capone kinda sounds like Yoda with a serious cigar addiction. The rest of the cast is fine, but aren’t given much to do. This is essentially a one man show, but audiences aren’t given any real insight into Capone’s psyche … only his suffering. It’s a portrait of mania chockablock with toilet humor – we often don’t know what’s real or fake because our unreliable narrator doesn’t either.
The whole enterprise feels a bit like the last half hour of “The Irishman” stretched out to 1hr 45min, void of context and guest directed by the Farrelly brothers. Rapper El-P’s minimalist score is cool when you actually hear it (namely over the closing credits). The movie’s also not bad-looking as it was lensed by David Lynch’s frequent cinematographer, Peter Deming. In spite of these positive attributes, you can only polish a turd so much. “Capone” is misery porn that’s at its best when it’s at its most ridiculous – watching Fonzo blast an alligator in the back with a rifle or unload on his own crew with a gold-plated Tommy gun whilst wearing a diaper snapped my attention back into focus. It’s gangster bling that don’t say a thing. Maybe Trank and Hardy will be more substantive with their Razzie acceptance speeches?