One of the interesting things about "Capone" — the only interesting thing, actually — is the fact that someone chose to make it. Yes, somebody looked at the script, by director Josh Trank — who was languishing in director's jail in the wake of his intensely disliked "Fantastic Four" reboot of 2015 — and said, "Let's shoot this sucker!"
Or words to that effect. It's also kind of interesting that Tom Hardy, a great actor, should agree to star in this picture, playing celebrity mobster Al Capone at the end of his days, shuffling around his Florida estate in adult diapers, smoking a carrot (more later) and ventilating the help with a gold-plated Tommy gun. You can see how Hardy might have found this mumbly geezer attractive; here is an actor who volunteered for service as a human hood ornament in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and who scoffed at the concept of simple audibility as the heavily muffled bad guy, Bane, in "The Dark Knight Rises." You want wack? Tom's your man.
Still, so-bad-they're-good movies have to be inadvertently entertaining, and this is where "Capone" comes up short. The picture is relentlessly dull, challenging the viewer to care even a little bit about whatever's not happening at every turn. Even Hardy can't goose this thing to life.
The basics of the story are familiar. Chicago bootlegger Alphonse Capone ("Fonse" to his friends and stooges) was popped by the feds in 1931 for income tax evasion, did several years in prison and, in 1940, with syphilis eating away his brain, returned to his Miami Beach mansion to live with his loyal wife, Mae (Linda Cardellini), his son (Noel Fisher) and various vaguely connected family members and hangers-on. Capone's one-time mob mentor, known here only as Johnny (Matt Dillon) — possibly the real-life goombah Johnny Torrio — pops in to do some fishing, and bent medic Dr. Karlock (Kyle MacLachlan) drops by on the regular to monitor Fonse's heart attacks and mental decline, contemplate his unattractive drooling and his noisy diarrhea (of which there's more in this movie than anyone might wish to witness), and order him to kick his stogie habit and start sucking on carrots as a healthier alternative. (It's a demonstration of how far gone Capone is that he doesn't just whip out a gat and terminate Karlock for suggesting something so stupid.)
Meanwhile, the federales are surveilling Capone from the surrounding swamplands in the belief that he has socked away $10 million somewhere, and of course, they want it. This hidden loot idea is as close as the movie comes to having a plot, but it evaporates in the end, as do the golden balloons that float through a couple of scenes and an invented second son (Capone actually only had one) who appears to be cooperating with the FBI.
The movie's dividing line between real world events and hazy fantasia is not rigorously maintained, so occasional bouts of imaginary gunplay and corpse pileups lack true pizazz. With one exception. There are so many lingering shots of the vacant-faced Capone staring at nothing and thinking about who knows what that when one character digs his own eyeballs out of their sockets with a switchblade, it feels like a Michael Bay moment. Why isn't there more such stuff? Why did this movie have to be so slow and insufficiently eventful? "This is what happens," says one character, "when you spend too much time in Florida."
Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.