Capone’s Last Year

DATELINE: Just Call Al ‘Fonzie’ 

 The Ultimate Al Capone.

Forget those performances by Robert Di Niro, Rod Steiger, Paul Muni, or a half dozen other actors who played the version of Scarface. This version of Capone  is filled with hungry alligators and chilling dreams of slaughter under his rubric.

Add Hardy’s blithering performance as a seminal Al Capone to the canon. Traditional crime movie fans will hate this unpleasant bio-drama.

Tom Hardy plays the addled, diseased, paranoid, syphilitic Capone living in Florida under FBI surveillance in 1948.

It’s hard to believe he was only 48 when he died after being released from Alcatraz in physical and mental decline. This film features Hardy with bloodshot eyes, barely verbal, hallucinating, deluded, and incontinent. No wonder fans of crime movies and Capone as kingpin hate this movie.

This is your anti-Capone mobster: a fallen slob who hears re-enactments of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every time he turns on a radio. He can barely shuffle around his Florida estate and the feds believe he is faking it at the end.

The story of Capone’s vault being empty comes out of this storyline:  that Al, called Fonzo, hid ten million bucks and forgot where he put it. Agents of Hoover were eavesdropping to hear if he revealed where it was, as they never believed he was mad as a hatter from syphilis.

Kyle MacLachlan is around as a FBI-hired doctor to try to wheedle info out of him between his final strokes. Matt Dillon is not holding up well as a fantasy figure from Al’s past. Dillon is looking his age and is nearly unrecognizable nowadays from his youthful self.

How much of this is true? We can never know what delusions and nightmares Capone suffered at the end of his life, or if the stories of his family around him were accurate.

This is quite a performance by Tom Hardy, but you are looking at a fantasy world Chicago mob figure in utter decline. It is fascinating to behold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinker, Tailor, Puzzle-maker

DATELINE: Cold Warriors

Hardy boy

 Hunky Hardy Boy!

If you want to be challenged by John LeCarre’s masterpiece of espionage during the Cold War, you might well take in the movie version of George Smiley’s hard work in finding a mole that caused the death of Control in the British secret service.

One kingfish at the agency seems to have a direct connection to the Kremlin. Though Smiley (Gary Oldman) has been forced out into retirement with his mentor, Control (John Hurt), he must work covertly to restore the integrity of the Circus.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is for those who enjoy armchair psychology and thought-provoking shades of gray.

Through complex flashbacks, and even more complex human relationships, you will find these are not pleasant men. The cast is stellar beyond compare: Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, are stand-outs.

The sexual peccadilloes are unspoken, but there is a strong scent of blackmail and unspoken ties among the men. It is nearly as much a guessing game about their bedtime bedmates as it is about their political bedmates.

The complexity and subtlety of the film probably makes it beyond the tolerance level of your standard James Bond satire fans. This is the low-key, grubby, office worker mentality of the Cold War. Oldman is particularly wooden to hide his tormented feelings.

Every spy ought to be brought in from this Cold War before their tedious work drives them to distraction.

Oldman plays much older, and the young men (Hardy and Cumberbatch) had better days ahead as superstars. They could not be more stunningly attractive in 2011 and quickly made a mark with this film.

 

Tom Hardy’s Taboo-boo: New TV Series

DATELINE:  Voodoo Taboo

 taboo-boo

Taboo is the new Fox series that seems to channel Mary Shelley more than Dickens or is somewhere north of the Gothic Brontes. It’s produced by star Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott.

Set in 1814 in London, it is highly atmospheric, even to the point of anachronisms.

We aren’t sure what the taboo is that lead character James Delaney may have broken. Hints abound that it could be incest, voodoo, or sleeping with boys. We are already impressed with Tom Hardy, a versatile anti-hero, if not villain. We find all his performances the antithesis of today’s cartoon characters.

The opening episode was suitably filled with mood and darkness. Indeed, Hardy at times seemed to be a vampire, the Grim Reaper, or a ghost. He is part Captain Ahab and part Rochester. His presence unnerves all the others around him. We are almost surprised he did not play Delaney with an American accent.

Hardy plays it to the hilt.

Though the show seems be suited to a two-hour movie, not much happened in the premiere, which may serve well if this show moves into a dozen episodes.

If you were to ask us about a plot, we’d trip and fall into the big hole in the middle of the episode. Everything seems to be moving or more aptly, drifting aimlessly.

He has returned to London to lay claim to his father’s estate, which seems to be bankrupt and to dig up the old man for an autopsy, Resurrection Man style.

We enjoyed seeing Jonathan Pryce on screen again as the primary villain—as well as the ubiquitous Edward Fox as dead man pater Delaney. Well, a paycheck is a paycheck.

 

It’s Oldman & Hardy, Not Laurel & Hardy

DATELINE:  Serial Killer in Soviet Union

Pictured: Oldman & Hardy

Oldman & Hardy

 

Child 44 is a brutal murder mystery. However, it is far more than the sum of its parts. It cost a pretty penny to make, extremely well-produced, but just who is the audience?

Banned in Russia, the film depicts an infamous serial killer of young boys in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s—and how several government military police investigate to undercover him. It is all the more difficult because Stalinist Russia does not recognize the concept of “murder in paradise.”

This is not entertainment in any traditional sense.

Tom Hardy continues to impress as the disgraced, but dedicated military hero. He works here with Noomi Rapace as his wife who is under suspicion as a British agent. They are hounded and forced to solve murders to save their skins.

Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy team up again, but the only fun is watching their nuanced performances in a disturbing story.

Director Daniel Espinosa does not paint a pretty picture. With its grey drab settings amid a depressing world of the Soviet regime, the film was banned in Putin’s Russia, though it probably deserves to be seen there.

What really transpires is a story of how a homicide bureau was finally established in Moscow.

Gary Oldman and Charles Dance are recognizable faces in the cast, but Philip Seymour Hoffman died before he could join them as one of the Soviet heads of the military.

If we recommend a movie like this, it is because it is striking in its utter dark vision. This is not a picture you want to view to escape dreary, rainy days.

Once again, a good film generally must have viewers who appreciate the message and the artfulness. As we progress into the 21st century of video games and shallow entertainment, intelligent and dark movies are an endangered species. This one joins the list.