Tom Hardy devours the scenery in a biopic of Scarface that is both too little and too much.



Tom Hardy


Josh Trank’s Capone is an example of the ever-increasing phenomenon where the conversation surrounding a project proves infinitely more interesting than the film itself. The narrative here serves as a biopic of sorts, focusing on the legendary and notorious gangster Al Capone. Forgoing the traditional structure of birth-to-death, rise-to-fall, limelight-to-spotlight and/or fade-into-obscurity, the film focuses exclusively on Capone’s final year.


He is brought to life (or rather, near-death) by Tom Hardy, who has made a career of transforming himself into larger-than-life characters, playing them as bizarre, cartoonish caricatures of their canonised personas (see 2008’s Bronson, 2015’s The Revenant and Legend). While the films that contain these performances may vary in quality, the effect is consistent: Hardy ensures you cannot take your eyes off him.


During the period of his life that the film depicts, Capone has been released from prison, no longer deemed a threat to society due to his rapidly deteriorating mental state. His physical brain rotting from syphilis, his mind slipping further and further into dementia, this infantilised version of Scarface can only communicate in strained grunts, can’t eat food unassisted, and constantly defecates in his pants. Tom Hardy gives the performance his all, as he does with each and every role he steps into, fully committed to capturing the loss of sanity choking the life out of this once titanic figure and cultural tentpole of America’s obsession with crime. In a more organised, coherent, and purposeful film, it could even be considered a career highlight.


However, the limited praise one can give Capone begins and ends with Hardy. There is a plethora of issues plaguing the picture. And there is a tonal inconsistency throughout. Moments that were clearly intended for comedic effect fall flat, while what should be the dramatic climaxes and high points of tension come off as unbelievably silly. There is an ugliness to the gleeful portrayal of violence, unsupported by anything textual that would give it a deeper meaning, and insufficient in self-awareness that would be needed to be effectively parodic. On a technical level, the poor pacing creates a much longer feel than the running time – barely over 100 minutes – would suggest. There is both too much and yet not enough story to support the constructed narrative. We are told of the man’s exploits, the highs and lows of his life, but all we are shown is a depressing and hyper-indulgent decomposing corpse, unable to elicit either sympathy or a sense of justice. The film desperately needed to do one or the other in order to make any sort of point.


This is Josh Trank’s third feature. Trank crashed onto the scene in 2012 with Chronicle, a charming and fun take on both the superhero origin story and the found footage format. His sophomore effort was the critically panned, commercial failure Fantastic Four, a production that was marked by Trank’s public outbursts and tantrums. The young director reportedly threw fits on set, and later took to Twitter to claim that studio interference was preventing him from realising the artistic vision he had for the reboot. With Capone, then, Trank had an opportunity to prove himself right. He had virtually complete creative control and the result is still a nightmarishly redundant and pointless mess.


So what now? Trank has proven that he can neither work independently of or directly under large studios. The stories he seeks to tell are either uninteresting, or he lacks the ability and skill to tell them properly (Chronicle, his only successful feature, was written by someone else). It might be futile, or even unfair, to speculate on the career prospects of a filmmaker. Perhaps the fact that in the aftermath of the Capone viewing experience it is the only thing worth talking about says it all.




Cast: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Noel Fischer, Kyle MacLachlan, Matt Dillon, Al Sapienza, Kathrine Narducci, Josh Trank.


Dir Josh Trank, Pro Russell Ackerman, Lawrence Bender, Aaron L. Gilbert and John Schoenfelder, Screenplay Josh Trank, Ph Peter Deming, Pro Des Stephen Altman, Ed Josh Trank, Music El-P, Costumes Amy Westcott.


Addictive Pictures/Bron Studios/Lawrence Bender Productions/Redbox Entertainment/Endeavor Content-Vertical Entertainment.

104 mins. Canada/USA. 2020. Online Rel: 12 May 2020. Cert. R.