Latest News:
February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

Film Review: “Capone”

CaponeI don’t see the point of this film other than as a cautionary tale on the miseries of syphilis, a message put across more effectively by those public safety shorts  made back in the 30’s and into the 60’s.

A reflection on the last year of America’s most notorious hoodlum, this film generated zero dramatic tension for me. Capone is shown at his Florida mansion as he becomes increasingly more deranged and dysfunctional as the spirochetes eat away his mind while friends and family watch on in helpless despair.

The film made considerable efforts to develop an effective mise-en-scene with  antique cars, authentic  costumes (men in period suits, women in print dresses), and Florida location shots. The effect was somewhat spoiled though by two glaring anachronisms, which probably won’t bother anyone else at all: 1. Nessun Dorma plays regularly in the background, only sung by Pavarotti who at the time the film was set was still in knee pants; and 2. Capone hallucinates back to a party in his honor at the roaring ’20’s height, only racially integrated with black and Asian guests, something that just didn’t happen in that highly prejudiced era, especially among lowlife gangsters.

Throughout the film, Capone battles various enemies, real and imagined. Under constant government surveillance, figures from Capone’s past emerge as well, with much interplay between what’s supposed to be actually happening and the ghosts in Capone’s mind. What passes for a plot turns on the $10 million Capone may have stashed somewhere. Even this McGuffin didn’t stir any interest as far as I was concerned. Although a film about a gangster, Capone largely lacks the elements of a crime film that fans of the genre enjoy. Since it’s a film solely about a man’s degenerative end, no stakes seem to be involved; there’s no real story arc about the rise and fall of a vicious gangster as in Scarface (both the original and the Pacino remake). We’re just asked instead to contemplate the pitiful, sordid physical and mental decay of a truly rotten human being.

This is despite a strong cast of talented actors (e.g., Matt Dillon, Kyle McLachlan) with an over the top performance by the lead. Tom Hardy proves once again he will literally do anything the role requires. Face covered in putty to depict deep scars and syphilitic sores, he staggers around the house and grounds growling in a deep baritone, throwing fits, fouling the bed while asleep with his wife, and ultimately reduced to wearing adult diapers with carrots substituted for the cigars Capone chain smoked.

The problem is that, despite the makeup and method acting, Hardy really doesn’t resemble Capone who had a very round, moon face. This has happened before. One particularly egregious example was casting the very Irish looking Jason Robards as Capone in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Capone left me with such a bad taste I immediately watched Al Capone afterward, the well done, realistic ’59 flick in which Rod Steiger (who facially did resemble Capone) masterfully portrayed the criminal in all his boorish flamboyance.

I recommend this film to no one.

Comments are closed.