Monday, May 18, 2020


If you genuinely liked Josh Trank’s Capone then cool. I really mean that. Anyone familiar with this blog knows I champion movies that most folks hate (from To The Wonder & Fear X to Problem Child & Clifford). So more power to you if you honestly enjoyed this. I just feel like some of the praise for Capone (which isn't much) is coming from folks who like to go against the grain and praise the universally hated movie because it’s the cool contrarian thing to do. I’m not saying that everyone who likes Capone is playing it up or lying to get attention/clicks/debates/etc, but SOME folks certainly are. I’m not the first person to bring attention to or shed light on reviews/pieces of writing that are designed strictly to provoke engagement or get attention, but it doesn’t seem to be dying down any time soon so it’s going to get mentioned from time to time.
And I’m not just talking about the practice of liking something ironically. That’s a whole other group of people that need to go away. It’s gotten to the point where certain people/critics/personalities/etc play in to the liking something so bad that it’s good “thing” that you can’t tell what they actually like or dislike. Some folks do the ironic bullshit until it becomes so esoteric that they’re goal/point/purpose makes absolutely no sense. It’s like “what do you actually like?” Some “bad” movies do provide entertainment/enjoyment of some form but when liking things ironically becomes part of who you are it’s disingenuous & quite frankly confusing.

That’s not the case here (although I’m sure there’s a few goofy smirking bloggers or podcasters out there making their hyperbolic case for Capone being a masterpiece or whatever). Some folks that like Capone seem to be latching on to the few good aspects (maybe there’s one or two things), ignoring the negative/failed aspects (as far as I’m concerned - there’s a lot), and are allowing those one or two (possibly) good things to define it overall. That’s cherry-picking. Just say you like one or two things about the movie but overall it’s bad (because it is). There’s nothing wrong with that.

I think there's an issue when a climactic moment draws comparisons to Happy Gilmore (I certainly enjoy Happy Gilmore but I don''t think Trank wanted to match it's tone with Capone)...

Happy Gilmore /

I was also reminded of Todd Solondz's Happiness at one point which does actually feel a little closer to the tone that Trank may have been going for...

Happiness /

Due to social media, a lot of critics are out in the open and some of them (on larger/noteable platforms) don't want to say anything overly negative about a movie out of fear of being "called out" by a filmmaker or actor (Josh Trank certainly has some experience in that field with the problems surround his previous film). There's nothing wrong with giving a negative review of something as long as you’re being constructive and not mean. Unfortunately a lot of critics have ruined the idea of a constructive negative review and have reduced it to 1,000+ words about how something “sucks”. Some negative reviews can bring about great dialogue. Just be respectful as opposed to clickbait nonsense like “this movie sucks, dude. Here’s a list of 21 reasons why...”
But at the same time who am I to tell (or even suggest) how someone writes? Be mean and "dunk" on folks all you want (there are definitely a handful of movies out there that do deserve to be trashed). Just know there's nothing truly clever about that approach.

The idea (and intent) behind Capone is great. A film about Al Capone (Tom Hardy) living in exile as his mind slowly deteriorates from neurosyphilis. Instead of following Al Capone from birth to death (still a typical biopic approach), Trank focuses on an isolated specific period from Capone’s life. In my opinion some of the best recent-ish biopics/true stories are films that deal with a short period of time rather than an entire life span (Camille Claudel 1915, A Hidden Life, Last Days, Ali, etc). So when I heard the news that there would be an Al Capone film about his final days I was excited. The part of Al Capone’s life that the movie focuses on is very anti-climactic and I love that. The only problem is Trank still manages to throw in the tommy guns, cigars, and cartoonish accents that sound like their stuck somewhere between Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago & New Jersey.
I think that’s the biggest issue I have with this movie. It really felt like a parody of a mob movie at times. Like a big-budget SNL sketch rather than a biopic. I don’t want this to sound mean but I honestly laughed at parts in this movie where I know I was absolutely not supposed to laugh (see my Happy Gilmore comparison from earlier). There’s just too much unintentional silliness from Tom Hardy’s Al Capone grunting his way through the movie as if he was imitating Vito Corleone to the generic mob movie dialogue about “family” or “the importance of family”.

Capone had the opportunity to do something somewhat unique. That's my other major issue with it. I know it’s easy to sit behind my laptop and talk about what could have been after the fact, but Josh Trank could have expanded on what Scorsese did in the final 45 minutes of The Irishman or what Coppola did in the final moments of The Godfather part 2 with Don Ciccio. I’ve seen a few reviews/opinions that try to attach the idea/atmosphere of Capone to The Irishman but the final products honestly don’t go together. Like I said before, Trank could have left the typical mob tropes out of it but he didn’t. At this point most folks can make an educated guess on the criminal life of Al Capone. It’s been done before. On film & television. Leave that all behind and do something daring (sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now).

I do believe I see what Josh Trank was trying to do. In the film Al Capone is suffering from memory loss so the film is trying to convey the intense disorientation that comes with his condition. But if you’re going to go bat-shit crazy then go all the way. Don’t dip your toe in & out. Go all in. Capone doesn’t go all the way in. I think I’d be praising Capone if the movie was truly off the wall (fail or not). But in my opinion it’s an odd mixture of playing it safe and occasionally attempting “crazy”.

The Godfather Part 2 /
The Godfather /

Unfortunately movies like Capone (and even Gotti) are the kinds of movies that clueless people with large platforms use as an example to (incorrectly) criticize mob movies and mafia stories as one note and/or stereotypical. I don’t like to drudge this up but it is my opinion that during the Scorsese/Marvel/Irishman nonsense from last year (that oozed in to this year) - a lot of people have a limited knowledge of film and just assume a movie with Italian-American names attached to it = mob movie. I also feel like some people don’t know the difference between Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola but that’s another discussion...

A non mafia Scorsese-esque moment from Capone...
Raging Bull /

With all that being said - I still think this movie should be seen (at least to understand where I’m coming from). I think between the issues with Trank’s last film (Fantastic Four) combined with the early negative reviews of Capone, it’s only going to fuel people’s interest. I think that’s fine. I’m all about (positive) dialogue even when the movie is bad. And perhaps there’s something I completely missed with Capone. If you’re reading this and saw the movie and you think I’m off base let me know.


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