Movie Review

The Untouchables

Never stop fighting till the fight is done
The Untouchables Movie Poster

US Release Date: 06-03-1987

Directed by: Brian De Palma


  • Kevin Costner
  • Eliot Ness
  • Sean Connery
  • Jim Malone
  • Charles Martin Smith
  • Agent Oscar Wallace
  • Andy Garcia
  • Agent George Stone / Giuseppe Petri
  • Robert De Niro
  • Al Capone
  • Patricia Clarkson
  • Catherine Ness
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: October 11th, 2010
Robert Deniro and Kevin Costner

Robert Deniro and Kevin Costner

The Untouchables is one of my favorite films.  This action packed, semi-historical gore fest based on Ness's novel, is one of the greatest "guy" movies of all time.  The perfect cast and the over the top action make this one of the best matinee films ever made.

Eliot Ness leads a group of cops against Al Capone and the entire Chicago gangland.  Malone is the old Irish veteran.  Stone is the rookie cop embarrassed that he is Italian.  Wallace is the book worm who comes up with the idea to charge Capone on tax evasion. 

Set during prohibition, Ness and his men start taking out some bootleg operations.  This riles up Capone.  In a great showy scene, Deniro explains his dismay,  "A man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms, enthusiasms... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball!"  He then proceeds to make an impression on  his employees.

It does not stop Ness, and his group keeps picking at Capone's operations.  They eventually get a witness, but Capone has him assassinated in one of the films bloodiest scenes.  He gets shot in the head. Brain matter, as well as blood, splatter on the wall, and Ness learns that they are in fact, touchable.

Connery won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.  I never thought much of his performance.  His death scene is overwrought and overly dramatic.  His best moments are when he is kicking ass.  I love how he gets the gangster in the cabin to talk. The British film magazine Ematinee, took a poll and determined he created the worst accent in the history of cinema for this role.

For my money Deniro deserved it.  He steals every scene he is in.  As Malone lays dieing, Capone is crying his way through an opera.  Deniro plays Capone big a loud, "Get out, you're nothing but a lot of talk and a badge."  He is the best part of the film. 

The Untouchables has many memorable lines. "Here endeth the lesson."  "What are you prepared to do?"  "That's the Chicago way!"  "Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight."  My favorite one goes to Deniro,   "You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word."

The movie ends with a reporter asking Ness what will he do when they repeal prohibition.  Ness responds,  "I think I'll have a drink."  This is a bit of an in joke as Eliot Ness was an alcoholic in real life. 

Reviewed on: October 15th, 2010
Sean Connery teaches Kevin Costner the Chicago Way in The Untouchables.

Sean Connery teaches Kevin Costner the Chicago Way in The Untouchables.

Sure, Connery's death scene is overwrought and overly dramatic.  I mean, only Sean Connery could get shot about 15 times in the stomach and chest and still be able to drag himself down a long hallway and then stay alive long enough for the police to arrive and then pass along the information he had about the bookkeeper.   However, it is no more overwrought or overly dramatic than the rest of the movie.

The entire mood of The Untouchables is of high drama.  It has a very old fashioned movie feel to it, apart from the amount of blood used.  The good guys, particularly Ness, are all very good and the bad guys are all very bad.  This isn't a movie with subtleties, it's all very melodramatic, but in a good way.  It seems clear to me that Brian De Palma is trying in part to emulate the old gangster movies of the 1930s.

Ness has his idyllic homelife, which comes complete with a sweet lilting soundtrack that differs sharply from the pulsing theme music.  DeNiro, whom I agree is fantastic here, plays Capone as a bigger than life character.  This is how we want to envision Capone.  It's the perfect movie Capone, a strutting, cocky, psychopathic and quintessential version of the mobster.

Even the action scenes are overly dramatic.  Take the shootout in Union Station.  The whole business of the baby carriage and it rolling down the stairs in slow motion while several sailors (there are always sailors hanging around in train stations) get shot, also in slow motion.  It's a great scene and I love how Andy Garcia ends it, but it's so over the top.

Obviously Connery's Oscar was one of those Oscars given for an entire career rather than just for this role.  Even if this part wasn't quite Oscar worthy, he's still terrific in it and his final, choked out, "What are you prepared to do?", still gets to me.  As for his Irish accent, he only even tries to use it a couple of times so I don't know why he even bothered at all. It's not the worst accent ever in a movie though.  I'd want to give that honor to his co-star, Costner, for his English "accent" in Robin Hood.

Reviewed on: June 17th, 2011
Charles Martin Smith, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia in The Untouchables.

Charles Martin Smith, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia in The Untouchables.

Somehow I had managed to not see this movie for nearly a quarter of a century. I’m very glad I did finally get around to it though as it is highly entertaining. It is a great crime movie told from the point of view of the good guys. I agree Scott. It is similar in style and pacing to those old 1930s gangster pictures; only in color.

Personally I enjoyed Connery’s tough veteran cop (accent and all) more than De Niro’s overcooked Capone impersonation. His baseball speech scene is so over-the-top and gratuitously vicious. It works for this movie but I didn’t mind the fact that Capone’s scenes are limited. Connery, on the other hand, brings an old world charm to Malone. And he gives us a glimpse behind the movie cliché of the Irish cop on the beat.

But this is Costner’s movie from start to finish. His bland charm works well as a man obsessed with a mission. In some ways this role is similar to the one he would play in JFK a few years later. On the surface both characters (both real men) are mild mannered but underneath they have a steely resilience.

There are several well-staged action scenes. I especially liked the one right before the scene Eric mentioned in the cabin, when the Untouchables go charging towards the bridge on horseback like a posse of cowboys in the Old West. Charles Martin Smith gets his big moment transitioning beautifully from crunching numbers to a guns blazing showdown with the bad guys.

Scott, the scene with the baby carriage on the steps of Union Station is either an intentional homage or a blatant rip-off of the most famous scene in the Russian silent classic Battleship Potemkin. In that movie (which was based on a true story) a baby carriage teeters precariously before rolling down the Odessa steps in the middle of a massacre of protesting citizens by an overzealous police force.

One thing neither of my brothers mentioned is just how vividly Chicago, circa 1930, is conjured up. The art direction and costume design are impressive and were both Oscar nominated. I wonder where they found so many old automobiles? Today they would CGI them but in 1987 every car was real.

The Untouchables is perfectly seasoned cinematic comfort food.

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