Normally, a movie involving a mentally deranged villain, walking around in a full diaper and mowing down people with a machine gun, would be one I’d recommend. Yet, as I sat at home watching “Capone,” I realized: It’s been so long since I’ve seen something truly terrible, I’d forgotten how cathartic it can be.
In the hands of a director with a specific vision, this movie could have been interesting. Nicolas Winding Refn took the same basic ingredients (including Tom Hardy) and made the mesmerizing “Bronson.” Trank has somehow turned the same recipe into a literal shit-show.
A few years back “The Informant!” (Matt Damon), directed by the great Steven Soderbergh, was billed as a comedy. It was filled with exceptionally talented comedians and comedic actors, including Patton Oswalt, Joel McHale, Scott Adsit, Rick Overton, and Tony and Allan Havey, among others. I was perplexed because the movie wasn’t funny … at all. The film’s talent delivered deadpan lines that didn’t seem to be constructed amusement. I started to wonder if that was the joke: Soderbergh made a comedy with extremely talented comedians and yet no laughs were produced.
The same thought crossed my mind as I watched “Capone.” I became convinced every terrible moment had to be intentional. At 10 minutes in, when Capone is shown shitting the bed, I took it as Trank’s way of saying, “I’m aware every moment in this movie is cringe-inducing and bad.”
Tom Hardy delivers a perplexing performance that rivals some of Nic Cage’s most voracious creative choices. Hardy looks like a meth addict in bad makeup, with a voice that sounds like the Tasmanian Devil after being neutered. He makes awkward noises and inhuman guttural grunts. His portrayal of Al Capone is weird and a little psychotic. Rarely have I seen a performance from a gifted actor so strangely disconnected from reality.
“Capone” is a fascinating mess—a dumpster fire that you may well find yourself unable to look away from. Part of me wonders if Trank was trying to make the audience feel like they were experiencing dementia alongside his hero. But even if that was the goal, the movie is still silly and boring and doesn’t lead you anywhere you’d ever want to go.
Perhaps there is some stylish new trend where you take a popular historical figure and find the most reviling and least interesting period of their life to adapt. Maybe one day we’ll get a movie about Neal Armstrong but skip all that landing on the moon nonsense and focus on how he lowered his handicap by three strokes at golf. Or a movie about Marilyn Monroe, but instead of an examination of the sexy bombshell’s mental illness, we explore the time she went to a department store to get a new toaster. Both of those movies would probably still be better than “Capone.”