The reviews have been making their way online for Capone, the buzzy gangster movie starring Tom Hardy and directed by Chronicle and Fantastic Four (2015) helmer Josh Trank.
Hardy plays notorious crime boss Al Capone, here depicted at age 47, suffering from dementia and haunted by his violent past. It’s certainly an enticing prospect to have Hardy going all out in a potentially meaty role like this, although there have been plenty of questions as to whether Trank could deliver the goods. With one big hit and one catastrophe on his resume, plenty of eyes have been awaiting Trank’s third feature, which was originally intended to have a theatrical release and is now hitting Digital.
So, what’s the word so far? Mixed. Very mixed. At the time of writing, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 50% (UPDATE: It’s down to 39% as of May 13th). The reviews are ranging from the scathing to the decent, with critics differing widely on whether or not the film’s decidedly unconventional approach to the character and Hardy’s grotesque depiction works.
Which could be a good thing, depending on how you look at it. As Trank – also working as writer and editor on Capone – has posted following the first wave of reviews: “It’s the beauty of art “” no one sees the same thing the same.”
First up, some of the good:
[…] Not the guns-blazing Al Capone biopic some gangster movie fans might be expecting, but it’s a curiosity that nevertheless demands a look-see for a fresh take on a crime legend whose most notorious exploits have been retold many times already. Capone seems destined to become a cult film, as it’s part character study and part body/psychological horror tale, and features a Tom Hardy performance that’s clearly Acting with a capital A.
Hardy is half of why “Capone” works. The other is Trank. [–[ With “Capone,” Trank makes you question what you’re watching in the moment: Are we in real life or what’s left of Fonz’s mind in his final days? The film paves a path that crime dramas often don’t tread, imagining what happens after a larger-than-life criminal’s reign of terror, stripping down an icon of power and mental capacity, and leaving a feral wreck in his place.
Capone works in spite of these road bumps, mainly because it’s easy to get wrapped-up in Hardy’s ghoulish performance, and the gothic horror of it all. As he staggers about his giant house in his robe and encounters the unquiet dead, Capone begins to feel like a riff on A Christmas Carol, with Scarface standing in for old Scrooge.
Capone isn’t a knockout comeback, but it’s an undeniably striking and bold endeavor that transcends genre constraints and conventional molds. […] And, yes, Hardy chews the scenery.
For a while, the film seems to traffic in elegant creepiness and little character moments, but soon enough all hell breaks loose, bodily fluids start dripping and viewers have to make up their minds: Are you going to run from this whacked-out twilight of the gods, or give in to it? It’s nuts, it’s a mess and it’s pretty damn entertaining if you don’t mind characters pooping the bed and getting stabbed in the neck.
– The Wrap
And the… not so good:
Capone shows little evidence that there’s any new insight to be mined from this particular world of doomed American outsider capitalism; all the lonely, poison men have been plenty diagnosed by now. That leavesÂ CaponeÂ to exist solely as an effortful acting exercise. Hardy certainly does aÂ lotÂ in the film, but that abundance is in service of little substance. Trank pulls back the freak show curtain; we watch Hardy briefly retch and growl.
Ultimately,Â CaponeÂ plays like an attempt to make a feature film out ofÂ The Irishman’sÂ final stretch, only minus the gravitas and emotional poignancy of that picture. One can see what Trank is aiming for, butÂ CaponeÂ largely misses its marks more often than not.
[Trank] invests so much in atmosphere and in chronicling Capone’s decline that the storyline “” riddled with flashbacks and half-hallucinations “” becomes a sort of surreal afterthought, a strange patchwork of bathos and brutality. […] Hardy, all guttural growls and tics, seems to be vying for the prize of Most Acting. As tempting a chew toy as the role may be, it comes off like a trap for him too “” voiding his better, subtler instincts for the baser pleasures of getting to ramble and roar outrageously across the screen.
CaponeÂ is definitely an unconventional take on the twilight of a notorious gangster. Alas, it’s not an interesting one, although the borderline self-parodying Method madness of Tom Hardy’s performance does kind of demand to be seen.
Handsomely shot and small of scale, “Capone” ambles along without catching fire. That’s because the movie, at heart, is shaped as a pedestal for Hardy’s prankish mumbly Method showboating.
In the US, Capone gets its Digital release on May 12th.