Untouchables, The (1987)

An entertaining De Palma crime-and-justice classic set in Prohibition-era Chicago, featuring indelible supporting work by Sean Connery and a rousingly emotional score by Ennio Morricone. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,173

Dir. Brian De Palma
1987 | USA | Crime/Drama/Thriller | 119 mins | 2.35:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for violence

Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith
Plot: In Prohibition-era Chicago, Federal Agent Elliot Ness goes head-to-head with crime kingpin Al Capone as he attempts to put an end to the city’s widespread corruption.
Awards: Won 1 Oscar – Best Supporting Actor; Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score
Distributor: Paramount

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Corruption, Justice, Law and Order
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Believe it or not, but I first heard of The Untouchables when Mr Amos, my Physics teacher back in secondary school, mentioned how violent it was.  I can’t remember now what the context was that sparked him to say that, but I always wanted to see the movie ever since. 

When I first saw it years after, I wasn’t impressed (truth be told, having already seen the likes of The Godfather and Goodfellas in those formative years, no other film about organised crime or gangsters could really compare), but revisiting it, I felt I was too blinded and naïve. 

“You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?”

The Untouchables is, in fact, a great film, an entertaining crime-and-justice piece that is as much about fighting crime as it is about the criminals themselves—and in Brian De Palma’s set-in-Prohibition-era classic, the criminal doesn’t come any bigger or more notorious than Chicago gangster Al Capone himself, devilishly if deliciously played by who else but Robert De Niro. 

The most indelible performance in The Untouchables, however, belongs to Sean Connery, who plays a veteran policeman recruited by Federal Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) to help nab Capone, winning his only Oscar in the process. 

Backed by a rousingly emotional score by Ennio Morricone, one of his finest from the ‘80s (which is saying something considering he gave us music for Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission and Cinema Paradiso), The Untouchables is probably best-known for a late shootout sequence involving a baby carriage—obviously a tribute to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925)—that sees De Palma utilising film language albeit rather indulgently to maximise tension. 

Grade: A-




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