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May 24, 2020

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A grotesque, inglorious look at Al Capone’s demise

AL Capone lived his final years on a grand estate in Palm Island, Florida, with his wife Mae by his side and grandchildren running around the property. It sounds like a pretty nice end for the notorious Chicago gangster, until you realize he spent those post-Alcatraz years suffering from declining health, dementia and the long-term effects of an untreated syphilis infection he contracted as a teenager.

He was likely broke as well. Capone died of a heart attack on January 25, 1947, at the age of 48.

This final chapter of his life is the focus of “Capone” — a hallucinatory and messy film starring Tom Hardy as the once notorious crime boss who is now hardly recognizable to himself or his family and in a state of rapid decline.

With ashen skin, blood-red eyes and a voice so raspy it’s barely intelligible, Hardy’s Capone looks like a drawing of a comic book gangster that’s gone too far.

“Fonse” (the name “Al” is not to be uttered on the property) totters around his well-groomed and cliche Floridian mansion in an open robe with a cigar (and later a carrot) hanging out of his mouth.

When he’s not shouting at his wife (Linda Cardellini) or gardeners, he can often be found with a far-off stare that means he’s either on the verge of a flashback sequence or soiling himself — doing both quite frequently.

His decay is cartoonish, as though all of his past sins are oozing out of his brain and body, which are laid out chaotically and unpleasantly for audiences to figure out.

“Capone” is the work of filmmaker Josh Trank, who, you may recall, is the blockbuster wunderkind who became a bit of a pariah in less than four years. His film “Chronicle” made him, at 27, a precious box-office superstar who earned comparisons to Steven Spielberg and Cameron Crowe. But his decline started before he could make good on the assumption that he would be the next big thing. He was then hired and fired from a Star Wars film, but perhaps his most infamous moment came when he distanced himself from his expensive “Fantastic Four” reboot a day before it opened (and bombed) with a tweet implying studio interference ruined his once great film.

Although we’ll never know what he might have done left to his own devices with “Fantastic Four,” for better or worse, “Capone” is a Josh Trank product. He wrote, edited and directed the film, and though “Capone” has interesting elements and a strong style, it is also deeply flawed and a bit of a slog to get through.

Hardy’s go-for-broke performance is certainly jaw dropping, but not exactly effective in making you care about Capone’s story or regrets.

Threads are introduced with little resolve, such as the possible US$10 million he’s hidden and lost; the FBI agent (a compelling Jack Lowden) who must convince his boss Capone is worth continuing to investigate; and the out-of-wedlock son who keeps calling and appearing.

The supporting cast is wasted. Matt Dillon pops up for a bit, and Kyle MacLachlan plays the physician who suggests the family give him a carrot instead of a cigar since he won’t notice anyway. It’s also numbingly violent.

His last year could have made for an interesting film, but there is little poetry or transcendence in “Capone” and nothing even close to the quietly devastating third act of “The Irishman.”

Trank may have wanted something more garish, horrifying and surreal for Capone, like a carrot cigar, droopy diaper and golden Tommy Gun.

At the very least, it’s hard to look away.


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