If you were ever looking for a different take on the life of Al Capone, Tom Hardy and writer/director Josh Trank deliver that with this mind-bending and hallucinogenic crime drama that sports shades of Twin Peaks and The Shining (1980).
Capone follows the notorious gangster in the last year of his life, really delving deep into the deterioration of his health and exploring how his violent past came back to haunt him. This is a character study of a man who had it all and has now deteriorated into nothing more than a monster. It’s very carefully paced to where the mystique of Twin Peaks mixes with the horror of The Shining to make this movie batshit insane. There’s even one sequence in here that is certainly influenced by The Shining, and it shows. The story is told from the perspective of Capone, meaning the more he becomes deranged, the more you can’t trust what’s happening on screen. It makes for an overall compelling character study, but one that isn’t flawlessly executed.
I don’t feel like the writing eases you into the film as well as it could have. There’s no secret that this is a very slow film as it focuses on the slow and gradual descent into madness of the titular character. However, from the get-go it feels like you’re playing a bit of catch up to put all the pieces of Al Capone’s life together that unfolded in the years prior to this film. This makes some of the first act more like a chore to watch as oppose to something you can jump right into. Once it gets going, the story is quite interesting. It’s not often that this part of Al Capone’s life is explored, so it’s interesting to see it all unfold in a way that is as unpredictable as its protagonist.
The weirder it gets, the better it is. The film has a couple of rough patches through the middle where it feels like it’s beginning to drag, but as it nears the final act it finds its footing and closes out strong. It has its ups and downs and isn’t a smooth ride in terms of the writing but, as a whole, Josh Trank has successfully delivered his vision for the story he wanted to tell.
The writing has its moments of greatness as well as those that are not so great, but the one constant throughout the film is Tom Hardy’s performance. It’s clear what drew him to this role as he is able to fully transform into this character and become unrecognisable. It’s a deeply emotional performance fuelled by hatred, anger and sadness that Tom executes to perfection. Initially, the voice he puts on is a little jarring but over time you don’t even notice it as Tom’s performance is just riveting the whole way through. He doesn’t slip out of character for a single second and remains behind this mask of pain and madness for every single second. It’s absolutely remarkable.
Alongside Tom Hardy are a number of incredible supporting performances from Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Al Sapienza and Kyle MacLachlan that all complement his leading role while all making an impression themselves. Linda is especially powerful alongside Tom, sharing a number of scenes where she is absolutely captivating in how much raw emotion she displays. The film is also shot really well, enhancing the psychedelic feel of a number of scenes with stellar cinematography from Peter Deming. Being the cinematographer on Twin Peaks: The Return, it’s clear why he was chosen as the man for the job.
In the end, Capone doesn’t do everything right, suffering from some story and pacing woes, but it is a mind-bending thrill ride that successfully captures a man’s descent into madness and how that impacts those around him. Tom Hardy is the star of the show, completely transforming into Al Capone with a truly stellar performance, and he’s accompanied by another rich performance from Linda Cardellini, who is an absolute delight to watch in anything. Capone isn’t your everyday crime drama and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re up for witnessing a slow descent into madness, this will suffice.