Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir-scr Josh Trank
prd Lawrence Bender, Aaron L Gilbert, Russell Ackerman, John Schoenfelder
with Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher, Gino Cafarelli, Al Sapienza, Kathrine Narducci, Neal Brennan, Mason Guccione, Rose Bianco
release US 12.Mar.20
20/US Bron 1h43

cardellini dillon maclachlan

An ambitious experimental drama about the final year in Al Capone's life, this film attempts to explore a mind in the grip of dementia. In the title role, Tom Hardy delivers a fearsome, full-bodied performance that's riveting to watch, even if the film otherwise rather aimless. Writer-director Josh Trank takes an unusually introspective approach to this material, propelling the audience on a freaky trip into a frazzled mind.
After 10 years in prison for tax evasion, 40-year-old Fonse (Hardy), short for Alphonse, is deteriorating mentally and physically due to neurosyphilis. Seven years later in 1946, he's living under house arrest in Florida. His wife Mae (Cardellini), son Junior (Fisher) and brother Ralphie (Sapienza) try to keep him grounded, with the help of Dr Karlock (MacLachlan), but he spends his days shouting at ghosts. So Mae calls old friend Johnny (Dillon) to keep him company. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Crawford (Lowden) sends spies in to try to learn where Fonse stashed his fortune.
The story is told through Fonse's eyes, as the world often becomes like a nightmare, with the people he violently killed coming back to haunt him. He remembers that he had $10 million, but can't recall where he hid it. He also becomes suspicious of people around him who he can't quite remember. All of this gives the film an oddly disjointed rhythm that's difficult to engage with, more intriguing than involving. Al can revisit his past, but finds no meaning in it.

In a deeply committed performance, Hardy finds the little boy within this scarred shell. Since much of his dialog is gibberish, it doesn't matter that he mumbles in a raspy whine. As the feisty Mae, Cardellini is the film's heart, and her scenes with Hardy have a nice kick. The surrounding cast offers naturalistic performances as people who either care about Fonse or want something from him. Each actor gets a few strong scenes, but not much connectivity within the narrative.

Trank's approach springs to life in the more unhinged moments, such as when Al leaps up to sing along with The Wizard of Oz, or when the doctor substitutes Fonse's cigar for a carrot. There's also an imagined lavish party and massacre. But the dry real-world scenes weaken these inventive flights of fancy. So even when Trank gets under the surface, there's not much there. This shell of a man is tormented by guilt but, since he can't quite remember why, there isn't much point.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 13.May.20

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