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The Untouchables (1987)

  Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: David Mamet
Starring: Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Links: The Untouchables on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Based on True Story

This movie gets: 10.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

The Untouchables (1987) is also mentioned in mino's review of Cinema Paradiso (1989) and mino's review of Miller's Crossing (1990).

"Unmissable" - a review by mino

The Untouchables stands on a very high pedestal indeed, ranked by many as one of the very best ‘gangster’ films in history. It's a big call, given how many great gangster movies there are: however, you would be hard-pressed to argue that The Untouchables isn't right up there.

The movie is set in prohibition-era Chicago, where the infamous Al Capone pretty much runs the show. Robert De Niro does a superb job as Capone — at times you think he's a little bit over-the-top, but he always does it with just the right vicious edge, and his flamboyance is very much in character. Determined to shut down Capone's bootlegging operations, the government sends in fresh-faced agent Elliot Ness, played by a surprisingly convincing and enjoyable-to-watch Kevin Costner. Costner plays the part of idealistic young buck very well indeed, which comes as quite a shock when becoming reacquainted with this movie after a long absence, in which you've seen some of the crap he's churned out in the intervening seventeen years.

After initial humiliation at the hands of the too-clever Capone, Ness knuckles right down, building an elite team to help bring Capone in. Grizzled but wise beat cop Jim Malone ranks as surely one of Sean Connery's most memorable acting performances, even though his Scottish accent is ever-so-slightly confusing on a stereotypical Chicago Irish cop. Connery delivers some truly great lines (“If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way. That's how you get Capone.”, one of the truly great lines in movie history) with such enthusiasm that it's hard not to get absolutely carried away by his performance.

On the team, too, is Andy Garcia, as a fiery rookie officer, who is also very good. It's been a long time since Garcia played a ‘rookie’ anything, and after the shock of seeing him looking like a baby-faced teen, you realise how much he brings to the role. Charles Martin Smith rounds out the team as a Treasury Department accountant (no, really), who is almost a comic relief character, but an interesting one nonetheless.

One of the great things about The Untouchables is that it has a bit of nearly everything — action, adventure, police drama, detective work, revenge, courtroom drama, comedy — nearly everything except romance. If you don't like one element of the movie, you'll certainly find something else there to like.

The movie isn't without its flaws: at least one particularly dodgy bluescreen special-effects sequence springs to mind, and the famous train-station scene at the end gets so over-the-top that is seems to be almost a parody by the end, though it's hard to tell if that's because it's been parodied so many times since. However, such an amazing story, with such snappy dialogue (David Mamet can take a lot of credit for the success of this movie), is going to withstand such minor flaws pretty easily.

An interesting thing to keep an eye on, too, is the use of violence. Given that it's a gangster story, the amount of violence is actually quite small, and is largely not graphic at all. However, it is, at times, incredibly shocking. Brian De Palma proves (and this is a lesson that some modern-day directors would do well to notice) that while providing builk quantities of violence is one way to shock, violence can both be understated and infrequent and still leave the viewer reeling.

Finally, it's worth mentioning, too, the fabulous soundtrack, by Ennio Morricone. I'm often the sort of person who goes through a movie without noticing the soundtrack at all, especially if it's an orchestral score, rather than some pop-filled crap filled with the likes of Smash Mouth. Morricone's score, though, fits so brilliantly with what's happening on screen, and heightens the sense of drama so much, you'd very much be struggling not to notice it. A great enhancement to a great movie.

mino gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 30 Jan 2004

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