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Even with a Good Cast, Josh Trank’s ‘Fonzo’ Has a Long Way to Go

This long-gestating project snagged Tom Hardy and a bunch of other great actors, but are they enough to counteract Trank’s reputation?
Taboo Tom Hardy
By  · Published on March 23rd, 2018

This long-gestating project snagged Tom Hardy and a bunch of other great actors, but are they enough to counteract Trank’s reputation?

The times when Josh Trank was thought of as an exciting director seems to be a thing of distant memory. Going from receiving positive reviews for his debut film, Chronicle to a dismal response to his Fantastic Four reboot took a toll on the erstwhile promising filmmaker. The internet was out for blood after Fantastic Four proved to be far too muddied. Eventually, Trank had to give up a coveted Star Wars standalone, which at least gave him an opportunity to go under the radar and rethink his next steps.

Trank’s third feature was announced over a year ago when Tom Hardy boarded Fonzo, the Al Capone biopic that will hopefully set Trank on a path of directorial redemption. News about the film was stagnant for a while, but it picked up steam again in March 2018 when a plethora of actors came on board, including Linda Cardellini (Bloodline) and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks). Most recently, Deadline reports that Jack Lowden — best known for his role as Hardy’s fellow Spitfire pilot in Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic, Dunkirk — has been added to the Fonzo cast list as well.

Hardy will play Capone himself and according to Deadline, Fonzo will focus on the infamous gangster’s final years as dementia sets in for him after a decade of imprisonment. The film sounds a little more intense than your average biopic, with Capone’s mental faculties involuntarily declining and “harrowing memories of his violent and brutal origins melt into his waking life.” The character then finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present.

It isn’t uncommon for Hardy in particular to play unsavory characters, especially those that he can twist into something more multi-dimensional. Fonzo wouldn’t be Hardy’s first outing as a gangster, as he played a gang leader on Peaky Blinders and both Kray twins in the 2015 biopic, Legend. It’s also been recently confirmed that he will reprise his leading role in the BBC’s Taboo. The hypermasculine period drama from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight that sees Hardy as James Delaney, a highly temperamental ex-corporal, which is a character that has drawn both ire and intrigue from anyone who’s seen it. The general consensus of Taboo seems to be that, “All these people are horrible, but we can’t look away.” Ah, the joys of gritty, edgy television.

That said, despite being known to portray conflicted, antihero types, Hardy himself has dismissed the term in the past depending on the roles he’s up for. “Is he an antihero? I don’t think so,” he notes about Taboo‘s protagonist, “He’s heinous and opportunistic, but he’s not just a standard bad boy. I wanted to go further than that.”

So, we kind of know what to expect from Hardy and his portrayal of Capone. Comparatively, Trank’s potential as a director is not so much a mystery in and of itself. The positive reception that he did receive for Chronicle wasn’t really a fluke. The film may have been a typical superhero origin story in a lot of ways, but its focus on character development — particularly the grey area of responsibility that comes along with having superpowers — set it apart from other films within the genre at the time. Chronicle also effectively experimented with the handheld camera medium too. But it wouldn’t be shocking if audiences disregard Fonzo just on the basis of Trank’s tainted name, or at least go into with a healthy amount of skepticism.

The problem with Fantastic Four being such a mediocre follow-up to Chronicle (to put it nicely) is that nobody knows what else to expect from Trank. He had a phenomenal cast lined up for the former (Kate Mara! Michael B. Jordan!) and a solid group of established heroes to draw from only for the film to fail with critics and fans, coupled with tales of woe behind-the-scenes fueling some gossipy fires. Bad press followed Trank like the plague since. The notion of him picking just about any place to restart his career — particularly with something as different as an Al Capone biopic — is fair game. Yet whether Trank can really find his way out of directorial purgatory will mostly remain up in the air until the movie’s release, which is not an ideal place to be in the hype-driven film industry of today.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)