Capone is an enjoyable showcase of Tom Hardy’s ability as an actor
Fans of Tom Hardy know him for some really fun and interesting performances over the years. Whether that’s Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, doing his damndest to be understood behind that mask, to Alfie Solomons, the eccentric Jewish gangster from the show Peaky Blinders, or even playing a horrendously violent and psychopathic brawler from the film Bronson. Hardy is no stranger to getting knees deep into a role and seeing how far he can take it. He is such an interesting performer that it doesn’t always matter how great the material is on paper, Hardy is always guaranteed to give the audience a fun experienced. So it made sense when it was announced that Hardy had been cast as one of the most notorious and ruthless gangsters in American history, only, the story didn’t take place in the exact way people would maybe think.
Capone follows the story of the Prohibition era American gangster Alphonse Capone during the last years of his life in the mid to late 1940s. Having been imprisoned for almost a decade, Al Capone is released from prison having been deemed no longer a threat to society. We follow Capone as he not only deals with old age and the ever constant nosiness of the FBI, but also we see him suffering at the hands of syphilis and dementia. Capone believes that he hid money away before he went to prison, the only problem is he can’t remember where he hid it. All parties are interested in the prospect of this money. Capone and his family are being bled dry by the IRS and having to sell one thing after the other from their residence, with the understanding that if they don’t figure something out, eventually they will have nothing. All while the FBI, still holding much disdain for Capone, want to take everything away from him and his family, including this potential hidden money.
The movie almost exclusively takes place from the perspective of Al Capone as we see his mind falling apart. It’s a very interesting decision as the move mostly takes place inside a fever dream of Capone’s mind, allowing the audience to question what they are seeing on screen is ever real or not. We see Capone struggle with his violent past, the false admiration and praise he got from his time of illegal and immoral business, and his failings as a family man. The greatest value in this film can be found in its poignant visual language to illustrate the fall of Capone from a towering figure of organized crime to an old man in his robe wearing a dipper chewing on a carrot.
While I don’t think all of the meaning in this film lands completely, I am very interested at the risks it takes. A more traditional biopic that would try to appeal to a broader audience would most likely focus on Capone in his younger years. If they did tackle the story of him in his old age, they would probably cut out half or more of the dream sequences and replace them with plot. Sometimes it feels like the filmmaking industry recycles too many old ideas without coming up with new and original thought provoking content. It’s nice to see a movie every once and awhile that is trying to do something original. Perhaps more viewings will illuminate my understanding and appreciation of his movie with time, but I would still take this over a perfectly polished biopic with all the old tricks attached to it.