There is no doubt Tom Hardy is one of the most influential and talented British actors of his generation. But he is also one of those actors who is very much hit-and-miss as it seems for every good film he makes (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warrior, Locke, The Revenant) there is a dud (This Means War, Lawless, Child 44, Legend) that dents his consistency. With his latest project, Capone, this falls into the latter with even himself proving to be more divisive as a performer than he usually is.
As he has done in the past with Charles Bronson and the Kray twins, Hardy tackles another real-life criminal, this time the infamous Chicago bootlegger in the final months of his life where his crime boss status is well and truly a thing of the past. Instead he is living in a Florida mansion which is gradually being stripped of its assets to pay his mounting debts and his health and mental state slowly deteriorating due to the neurosyphilis that contributed to his release from prison for tax evasion.
Instead of making millions and murdering his opponents as he demonstrated in his heyday, he is now reduced to a slurring, cigar-chomping, heavily-coughing, bed-defecating shadow of the past who can fall to the ground just from a slap to the face as an argument with his long-suffering wife Mae (Linda Cardellini) shows. We do get a glimpse of the little power he has left as he shows what an intimidating figure he still is to those who risk antagonising him via a verbal threat or a glare. We also get a series of hallucinatory sequences which remind us just how powerful this man once which ask if he thinks he is still.\Made by Josh Trask who made the enjoyable Chronic and crashed back to earth with his flop Fantastic Four reboot, this unusual biopic of focusing on a crime icon approaching the end turns out to not really be worth the time and effort, not good news for its guy at the helm. In addition, it is not helped by a straightforward performance from its lead that seems over-the-top and not even in an exciting way.
From the moment he first speaks, Hardy makes Capone go from sounding like Tom Waits gargling mouthwash to someone who would not sound out of place on an episode of South Park. Whilst his performances in Bronson and Legend were strong enough to overcome each film from sinking further, this one has the opposite effect, failing to give what comes off as a standard and tiresome biopic even a modest measure of usefulness through his acting. The make-up and the costumes designed to make Hardy ugly (a job indeed) may be commendable but the performance feels too repetitive and not written strongly enough to make this a performance that can sit well alongside other roles of villainous sorts he’s played.
The hallucinatory sequences are also fatal to the story as they seem like a lazy way of continuing the story and rather than just focusing on the present state of Capone, it carries on going back to these sort of sequences which make it worse. Notably a sequence where Capone goes into a cellar to observe a party celebrating him which eventually turns into a massacre with him standing amongst the bodies is so unwanted and offers nothing to a story which has already failed to ignite a sufficient interest from the outset.
Capone’s speech to a niece at a dinner table very early on is so bland as a way to kickstart the performance or even the film that one guesses correctly from that point that, apart from scenes of Capone defecating himself which generate quiet humour than any response, nothing memorable enough takes place.
Matt Dillon as a friend of Capone’s who in one scene takes him on a fishing trip is let down by where the direction takes his character while Kyle Maclachlan feels underused as Capone’s doctor which with more attention focused on could have at least improved the picture moderately.
Released straight onto video on demand instead of a planned theatrical release because of COVID-19, there feels a bit of a relief that it did so because it would have been frustrating to travel afar to watch it. It also feels that only it’s lead actor’s reputation may have got this made when it wasn’t really needed and the likelihood is that in ten years when looking at his portfolio, this will just be remembered as the film where Tom Hardy shit himself.
OUT OF FOUR STARS: **