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Capone
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by iF Magazine

"The revisionism starts off early..."
3 stars

Our cultural view of the ‘30s Chicago gangster wars which resulted in the ultimate imprisonment and death of Al Capone have largely been informed by two sources, both called THE UNTOUCHABLES. One was the late ‘50s-early ‘60s black and white TV show starring the hardboiled Robert Stack as an indomitable Elliott Ness, the other was the even more idealized Brian DePalma version released in 1987. On the heels of that picture came this movie, which purports to follow-up on what happened after Ness put Capone in prison for tax evasion.

The revisionism starts off early when we see not Ness, but a different FBI agent named Michael Rourke (Keith Carradine) making the big arrest of Capone at the gangster’s estate. Bookend scenes show Rourke chatting with a syphilis-ridden Capone during his final days in what appears to be a rest home. Rourke initially puts Capone away in Federal Prison, but Capone is unimpressed and is more than able to run his criminal empire from the execution room of the prison. Infuriated by his arrest, Capone orders his men to put the hit on Rourke and his family and his thugs do so in a fairly well-done suspense scene that begins when Rourke goes downstairs in his home to put Christmas presents under the tree for his kids. He finds the milk and cookies his kids have left for Santa half-eaten—and no Santa in sight.


Rourke repels the two invaders by the skin of his teeth and then determines to have Capone put in a new federal prison called Alcatraz, where Capone won’t be able to have any fun at all. So where’s the great Elliott Ness in all this? Well, he’s mostly standing on the sidelines. As portrayed by Scott Paulin, Ness is just a political kiss-up who hogs all the credit while Rourke does all the dirty work. Is this the way it really happened? Well, I never heard of any FBI agent Michael Rourke before, but it’s possible that he just didn’t have as good a press agent as Elliott Ness. The revisionist take on Ness makes CAPONE (originally titled THE REVENGE OF AL CAPONE) marginally interesting, particularly coming off the fairy tale-like qualities of Brian DePalma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES.


Unfortunately, the film is undone by its talky, made-for-TV production values and Keith Carradine’s turn as Rourke. Carradine can be a wily character actor (particularly when guided by the sure hand of a Robert Altman), but he’s not exactly the kind of guy you want to play a heroic FBI agent. First of all, he’s so skinny he just looks silly manhandling gangsters who appear to outweigh him by a hundred pounds or so. Secondly, he’s a little lacking in charisma. Cold and distant is one thing—Robert Mitchum could play a heartless guy you just couldn’t take your eyes off of. But Carradine just puts you to sleep.


He’s not helped by a cast culled exclusively from TV. Ray Sharkey, in an eye-bulging piece of overacting as Capone, was hot off his turn as Sonny Steelgrave in WISEGUY when he made CAPONE (four years later he was dead from AIDS). But despite his top billing his Capone is a glorified cameo that probably has less than fifteen minutes of total screen time. Rourke’s partner at the FBI is played by Charles Haid from HILL STREET BLUES, and Capone’s vicious henchman Frank Nitti is here played by Alan Rosenberg, the wimpy ex-boyfriend Ira from TV’s CYBILL. If you’re looking for a smoky, raven-haired femme fatale for this sort of thing you might want to hire Linda Fiorentino of THE LAST SEDUCTION…but this production has to settle for Debrah Farentino, last noticed in the sci fi TV flop EARTH 2.


While its television origins become obvious every time Craig Safan’s solid score swells for a commercial break, there’s a surprising dosage of blood on hand for the film’s tommy gun shootouts and also some nudity (in a speakeasy floor show and a love scene between Carradine and Farentino) seemingly shot specifically for the video release.

Frankly, there was a little more of Keith Carradine’s heavily-shaven torso than I wanted to see. CAPONE wraps up with a satisfying action finale but it’s unlikely to make anyone forget either version of THE UNTOUCHABLES…unless they’ve got a bone to pick with Elliott Ness. -- Jeff Bond

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4987&reviewer=119
originally posted: 02/24/01 20:36:11
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USA
  26-Feb-1989 (R)
  DVD: 28-Mar-2000

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Feb-1989




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