The Untouchables (1987) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running Time: 119 min.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Bradford, Jack Kehoe, Brad Sullivan, Billy Drago, Patricia Clarkson
Director: Brian De Palma
Screenplay: David Mamet
Review published August 8, 2004
If The Untouchables proves anything, it's that if you put enough very talented people together, good results are bound to follow. This is the Hollywood equivalent of the All-Star Game, with a cast and crew selected for their abilities for the project at hand. Esteemed screenwriter David Mamet's (Glengarry Glen Ross, State and Main) dialogue sparkles, while director Brian De Palma (Body Double, Scarface) has a script that perfectly complements his cinematic virtues. Although Harrison Ford had reportedly turned down toe role of Eliot Ness, Kevin Costner (Bull Durham, Thirteen Days) proved to be just as formidable in the role, and it would eventually catapult him into the role of leading man for many years to come. Sean Connery (The Rock, The Hunt for Red October) earns his first and only Oscar for his supporting role, anchoring the film with a great performance as Jim Malone, Ness's mentor. The score by Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) is one of his best and most memorable to date. Oh yeah, I guess I should mention that Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver, Heat) is in this flick too, as Al Capone.
Set during the 1920s in Prohibition Era Chicago, a treasury agent named Eliot Ness is called upon to crack down on the illegal alcohol trafficking market run by organized crime like that run my notorious gangster, Al Capone. Capone rules by getting his lackeys to do all of the dirty work, then bribing officials to look the other way. Ness assembles a team of men who cannot be "touched" by Capone's persuasion, but without any evidence of firt-hand wrong doing, only a tax evasion charge seems likely to stick. Too bad the witnesses are dying before they can go to court to prove it.
The Untouchables is a powerhouse action drama that delivers on almost every level necessary. The acting shines, with terrific performance all throughout the cast, especially by the lead performers. Brian De Palma actually makes the wise choice in realizing that less-is-more, only pulling his stylish flourishes when necessary, such as the Battleship Potemkin homage with a baby carriage, which is a truly classic piece of filmmaking for both films. Morricone keeps the tone feverish with the terrific music, accentuating each scene with perfection.
The Untouchables is high quality entertainment recommended for all who love crime dramas, especially for those who enjoyed the television show of the same name. With all of the egos involved, it's good to see a film where everyone so perfectly complements each other for the good of one vision. This ranks as the best work for almost all involved.
©2004 Vince Leo