By: Amanda Guarragi
Al “Fonzo” Capone is one of the most notorious mafioso’s in history. There have been plenty of films that have shown him in his prime, where he was capo and killing people without any remorse. We have seen the side of the angry, reckless, killer on multiple occasions. In the case of Capone, Josh Trank focused on the older, deteriorating version of Fonzo, that no one has ever seen. The film is incredibly unique and has a clear vision, in wanting to explore the mind of someone, who has suffered from multiple strokes and has a severe case of dementia.
Capone is a film that shows the brutal decline of someone’s physical and mental health in the most honest way. Trank did not shy away from showing the loss of bodily functions, accidental bowel movements and horrific hallucinations. This was more than just a typical mobster biopic because it included horror elements from inside Fonzo’s mind, as he slowly loses his sense of self. No one has ever shown this side of dementia on screen before, it is always sugar coated and many people won’t understand what Trank was trying to show in this film.
Yes, you might find it confusing but it is only confusing, if you don’t understand how dementia works. Trank used Fonzo being trapped in the house, as symbolism for him being trapped in his own mind. The hallucinations of his past life, combined with his most disturbing murders is haunting, while he walks the hallway in his own home. Fonzo starts out strong at the beginning of this film, as the capo we all know, with his cigar in his mouth, the low scratchy baritone voice and his best suit. We then see his descent into an illness, that everyone takes lightly.
Can you imagine losing your sense of self? Can you imagine forgetting your loved ones who have helped you through everything? Can you imagine verbally abusing everyone around you and not realizing what you’re saying? Can you imagine walking into a room and thinking someone kidnapped you, when you initially went into your room to grab something?
That is dementia and many people suffer from it, some worse than others but it is one of the worst mental illnesses, with no cure.
I know that this film is about one of the most brutal mafioso’s in history but it affected me in a way that no film has. I was incredibly emotional while watching Capone because of how it handled both illnesses. I have watched both of my grandparents suffer from various forms of dementia and strokes. To have a film that shows it in all its messiness is something personal to me. I got extremely emotional because it brought back memories of watching my grandparents struggle. My grandmother forgot who I was, she forgot my name but she knew who I was, she sensed it was me and to see that change in her eyes, is something I’ll never forget. My grandfather had a very rare case of dementia, where he felt like people were constantly trying to attack him and take him away.
Josh Trank was bold enough to show how brutal this disease can be and I really appreciate that he chose to highlight it in this way. There were moments in the film that can be considered exagerated but we were in the mind of Al Capone, we have to remember, that he has seen some terrible things and he has had a hand in doing them himself. The eerie atmosphere when being in Fonzo’s mind worked extremely well and I think the quick editing from hallucination to present time, was utilized in an effective way. We were immersed in his memories and then it cut to him on the floor completely blacked out.
This is also Tom Hardy’s best performance to date. Hardy embodied Capone in his old age, he fell ill at the ripe age of 48 and declined at a rapid pace. Hardy changed his entire physicality from the beginning of the film and nailed the vocal changes to match Capone’s. Does he mumble a lot? Sure, but he suffered two strokes. The performance lies in his eyes because he can no longer hold a conversation. With each new question Hardy reacts with just his eyes. There is one scene that is shared with Linda Cardellini, (who was also excellent in this) where he first compliments her and then completely tears her down, in the same sentence. There’s so much depth to his performance because of how he shows his emotions, with minimal dialogue or movement.
Capone is one of my favourite films of the year because of how original it is. It is a mob biopic with a central focus of two illnesses that have a serious impact on someone’s life. Josh Trank boldly delivered a film that no one knew we needed in the film library. It is such a different take on a mobsters life and it is something special. It is so incredibly unique because it incorporates horror elements with mob drama, while delivering a strong character piece.