CAPONE (2020)

May 11, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. I was really hoping for a Josh Trank resurgence. When his FANTASTIC FOUR became one of the worst reviewed movies of 2015, he lost out on a chance to direct a Star Wars film. Given creative control as writer-director-editor, CAPONE was supposed to be his chance bounce back and re-capture the intrigue and promise of his first film, CHRONICLE (2011). And he even chose the fascinating notorious gangster Al Capone as the subject for his comeback. What could go wrong? Well … most everything.

Tom Hardy usually adds enough interest to make any of his projects entertaining to watch, and sometimes he’s downright brilliant. Going back to BRONSON (2008), and on through TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011), WARRIOR (2011), THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015), THE REVENANT (2015), and TV’s “Peaky Blinders”, Mr. Hardy has quite a resume of memorable characters – and the above list barely covers half. This time out he plays Al Capone … “Fonse” … don’t dare call him Al “in this house.” He has recently been released from Alcatraz where he was serving his sentence for tax evasion. Confined to his Florida mansion, Capone is only 47 years old, but looks twenty years older thanks to the effects of neurosyphillis-induced dementia. His mind is never clear and his visions take him back to his violent criminal past, or snapshots of his youth (with an ever-present gold balloon).

We can’t really tell if filmmaker Trank meant this as a parody or not. Capone is seen as a mumbling near-zombie, almost always wearing a bathrobe. His eyes are bloodshot, and the once menacing gangster is now a paranoid, saggy diaper-wearing shell who noisily chomps on a cigar (or carrot), fires off his gold-plated Tommy Gun, and has constant issues with vomit-bladder-bowels. Typically a parody offers either slapstick or black comedy, but I only recall a single chuckle … one that occurs when Capone pulls out a shotgun while on a fishing boat with his old mob buddy Johnny (Matt Dillon). Other than that, it’s mostly a bleak look at dementia and the lost power of a man who follows his visions into closets and basements, and jumps up during a movie to sing-a-long with the Cowardly Lion’s “If I Were the King of the Forest.”

The supporting players are given little to work with. The great Linda Cardellini plays Mae, Capone’s supportive wife, while Kyle MacLachlan is his crooked doctor, Noel Fisher is Al junior, Al Sapienza is Capone’s brother Ralphie, and Kathrine Narducci is Ralphie’s wife. There is a secondary plot point involving government surveillance as they attempt to discover the whereabouts of the $10 million Capone supposedly stashed years ago. Of course, Capone doesn’t remember, and when and FBI agent (Jack Lowden, with director Trank in a cameo) interrogates him, he’s unsure whether Capone is acting or actually that far gone. There is also a bit about phone calls from “Tony”, possibly a long-lost Capone son borne from an affair.

The film covers Capone’s final year, and mostly it comes across as a sad and depressing view of dementia. The most obvious statement on Capone’s loss of power, comes in the form of a metaphor, as his beloved “Lady Atlas” garden statue is removed to be sold off. There is also a recurring moment where Capone tunes the radio to a broadcast of the Saint Valentines’ Day Massacre, and family time at Thanksgiving is nothing short of painful to watch. Cinematographer Peter Deming (MULHOLLAND DRIVE, 2001) gives us a well shot film, but despite a couple of David Lynch-type moments, the film mostly lacks entertainment value. I can’t figure out who might want to watch this. Trank seemed to go the deeply artistic route on a subject that’s tough to watch. Maybe he’ll get yet another shot.

Available on VOD beginning May 12, 2020

watch the trailer:


THE ART OF THE STEAL (2013)

March 16, 2014

art of the steal Greetings again from the darkness. Heist movies are a staple film genre that we can depend on to deliver plot twists, back-stabbing and misdirection. The best ones can make us chuckle along the way as we try to keep up, knowing full well we are a step behind.

The movie begins with a bit too much voice over from Kurt Russell’s character Crunch Calhoun. We learn that Crunch is a wheel man for a group of art thieves, and he was double-crossed by his brother Nicky (Matt Dillon). After serving his sentence in a Polish prison, Crunch becomes a stunt performer on motorcycles who makes a few extra bucks creating spectacular crashes for the spectators.

As you would expect, Crunch is soon enough drawn back into the world of stealing art … for the proverbial one last job. As the old gang assembles, it’s clear Crunch still doesn’t trust brother Nicky. But his need for money compels him to participate.  The rest of the gang consists of Kenny Welsh as Paddy, Chris Diamantopoulas as Guy, Katheryn Winnick (Crunch’s girlfriend), and Jay Baruchel as Frenchie (Crunch’s apprentice).

Writer/director Jonathan Sobol has solid instincts but would have definitely benefited from a script doctor, and more importantly, someone to stand up and rescue the mega-mismatch of Jason Jones (a bumbling Interpol Agent) and Terence Stamp (a parolee assisting with the investigation). Stamp is sadly underutilized here, though the film’s best scene has he and Russell facing off in an airport. Too bad the film couldn’t find a way to match these two up a couple more times.

The stylish direction would have been more effective if the stabs at snappy dialogue had been just a tad bit funnier and crisper. Baruchel helps with this some, and Russell still knows how to deliver a line, but this is not in the same class as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or The Usual Suspects. Heck, it’s not even Ocean’s Eleven. Still, despite all the things it’s not … it does provide some decent entertainment during the winter doldrums of movie releases.

It also gets bonus points for a creative use of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams”, and for having a Canadian filmmaker’s use of the line “Canada.  America-lite“.

**NOTE: I’ve long been a fan of Kurt Russell and have often written of my disappointment in his movie choices. He has the looks, charm, screen presence and talent to have been a much bigger star had he only chosen his roles more carefully.  I’m convinced losing the Bull Durham role to Kevin Costner soured him on acting to the point that he has since refused to take acting too seriously again.  Crunch does not make up for missing out on Crash.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy most any heist film and appreciate the old school greatness of Kurt Russell and Terence Stamp.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: your expectations are at the level of Guy Ritchie or The Usual Suspects.

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbqvELZ1-P8