The cinematic sight of 2020 (to date) occurs late in Capone, director Josh Trank’s thrillingly subjective portrait of the last year in the life of 20th-century America’s most famous gangster. Addled by neurosyphilitic dementia, 47-year-old Al Capone (Tom Hardy) struts out into the front yard of his palatial Palm Island, Florida, estate in a bathrobe and a diaper, an enormous carrot in place of a cigar in the corner of his mouth, and a gold-plated Tommy Gun in his meaty fists. His hair askew, his face scarred, and a glazed look of confusion and fury shining in his black eyes, he opens fire on his friends, family and house staff, murdering many of them in a hail of senseless bullets. As terrifying as it is hilarious, it’s a spectacle of madness unleashed, and thus the epitome of this deliriously wild and entrancing look at the final days of Chicago’s notorious kingpin.
Proof that grand villains don’t necessarily receive grand endings, Capone (debuting on VOD on May 12) is a demystification of its mythic underworld figure, here depicted by a phenomenal Hardy as an ailing giant lost inside his head. Trank’s tale picks up with Capone—here affectionately referred to as “Fonzo,” a riff on his full name “Alphonse” (and the original title of the film)—at the end of his road in 1946. Having served eight of the eleven behind-bars years he received for income tax evasion, Capone retreated to his Florida mansion, where syphilis turned his brain into veritable mush, and it’s there that the writer/director finds him, stalking the halls of his home, gripping a fire poker, in search of people concealed just out of sight. As it turns out, this initial hunt is part of a game of hide-and-seek with adolescent relatives. Yet it’s a fitting introduction to Capone, who—ravaged by disease and unsure of the boundary between fantasy and reality—suspects spies lurking around every corner, behind every tree, and on the distant banks of his backyard pond.
Capone is a story of seclusion and delusion, and immediately adopts its protagonist’s unreliable point-of-view. In his imperial home, full of Roman columns and ornate fireplaces, Capone is surrounded by those closest to him: wife Mae (Linda Cardellini), who loves and loathes him in equal measure; son Junior (Noel Fisher), who pities him; Doctor Karlock (Kyle MacLachlan), who sees little hope for his recovery; bodyguard Gino (Gino Cafarelli), who fears him; and other friends, gardeners and movers who treat him with a mixture of respect and concern. No matter this coterie, though, Capone is alone, routinely pissing and shitting himself, and trapped inside a mind that’s constantly playing tricks on him, causing him to forget who he (and his wife) is, and producing symbolic visions of regrets, tragedies, and triumphs that bleed, bewilderingly, into the real world.