*. Tom Hardy. As Al Capone, if you will. As an old Al Capone, suffering from syphilis, dementia, and multiple strokes. Sure Capone died at the age of 48, but in the 1940s that was the equivalent of being in your 80s today. He was a wreck.
*. So a young, sturdy British actor playing an old, decrepit Italian-American who he doesn’t resemble in the slightest. That’s bold casting. Admittedly, Hardy had played gangsters before, in Bronson and Legend (where he was both the Kray brothers), but Al Capone was more than a reach.
*. It makes no sense at all. You watch Hardy like you watch Anthony Hopkins playing Richard Nixon or Tobey Maguire playing Bobby Fischer, as though it’s some kind of weird experiment, not because you believe in it. Now sometimes these wild casting decisions do work — Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster is a good example — but most often they’re only weird. Not train wrecks, but weird.
*. Hardy’s Capone is weird. As noted, he’s far gone into dementia, and has trouble verbalizing beyond an odd throaty grunt that may not have any meaning. It’s the kind of performance that begs Hardy to let go, and he does. The script even sends him off like Tony Montana, firing his gold-plated Tommy gun at his Florida mansion (this, I believe, is a dream). But what the point of it all is, is anyone’s guess, since given the nature of the proceedings it can’t function as any kind of biopic.
*. There isn’t even any plot to explain, which is one reason it drags so badly. Honestly, this is one of the dullest gangster movies I have ever seen. Nothing happens. Capone might have a secret son, or he might not. He might have hidden away some $10 million, or he might not. He might even be eaten by alligators at the end. Who knows?
*. As a star vehicle, none of the supporting characters are given any chance to make an impression. Linda Cardellini is Mae, Al’s wife. Kyle MacLachlan is his doctor, who is also working for the Feds. For some reason. It’s not really explained. Matt Dillon is the ghost of Johnny Torrio, whose connection to Capone is never explained. The movie basically consists of Hardy staggering about in his bathrobe, dreaming of events in his past and looking shell-shocked in the present. “Nessun dora” gets played over and over on the radio because it’s the one bit of Italian opera that pretty much everyone knows.
*. I don’t like dumping on a movie like this because I think writer-director Josh Trank (perhaps still reeling from Fantastic Four) really believed in the project, to the point where he even put some of his own money into it. But it’s terrible, without even being fun in a camp sort of way. I kept wanting Hardy to blossom into Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, but how can he given Capone’s ruined physical and mental state? His most expressive moments are unwanted bowel eruptions.
*. If only Trank had allowed the movie to derail completely and let Hardy bellow out “Say hello to my leetle friend!” as he stalks his grounds in a diaper with a carrot in his mouth at the end. Why not go crazy in a crazy way? If you’re going to cast Tom Hardy as Al Capone you might as well swing for the fences and not just hold hands with ghosts on the porch.