Review: THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 22 September 2013


Blessed with stylish direction, witty script and impeccable cast, THE UNTOUCHABLES is entertaining, if slightly hollow cops-and-gangsters saga.

Widely regarded as one of director Brian De Palma's finest hours, THE UNTOUCHABLES was both commercially and critically successful way back in the summer of 1987 with an impressive $76.2 million at the US box office over its estimated $25 million budget.

Set in the Prohibition-era of Chicago circa 1930, the movie begins with a mild-mannered Treasury Officer Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) who is assigned on a high-profile case and cooperates with the Chicago Police Department to take down the notorious crime boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro). When his first liquor raid ends up an embarrassing failure, he becomes a laughing stock among the police department. However, things change when he meets a veteran Chicago beat cop, Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) at a bridge one night and this is where he decides to recruit a small, handpicked team starting with Malone. Joining them later is George Stone (Andy Garcia), an ambitious sharpshooter from the police academy and finally Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), a Treasury Department accountant investigating Capone's lack of income tax returns. Soon all four of them begins their quest to shut down Capone's illegal operations one at a time. But it doesn't take long before Capone orders his men to fight back that subsequently resulted into a series of inevitable bloodbaths.
Brian De Palma's direction is mostly solid and stylish enough that makes the old-fashioned 1930s cops-and-gangsters genre cool again with his terrific visual sensibilities. Likewise, he knows how to stage exhilarating set pieces with great camera placements. Ennio Morricone's harmonica-driven score stands out as among his best ever composed in his illustrious career which often helps establishing both lively and somber mood of the movie. Meanwhile, David Mamet's profane-filled script is blessed with enough wits that makes most of the dialogues catchy and inspiring.

As for the acting, all the cast are top-notch. Kevin Costner brings a suitably low-key charm but highly determined individual as Eliot Ness -- a landmark role which arguably made him a star as among the most sought-after leading man in Hollywood. Sean Connery's Oscar-winning portrayal as Jimmy Malone is particularly memorable the way he combines dry wit, street-smart wisdom and dignity into his flawless character. The rest of the supporting cast, including Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith, are just as competent. Lastly of course is none others than Robert De Niro in his over-the-top but wildly entertaining portrayal as Al Capone whose trademark "look-at-me" acting swagger is put into great use.

The 10-minute BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN-inspired set piece involving a slow-motion shootout, a screaming mother, and a baby carriage rolling down the staircase in the Union Station.


Jimmy Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
I understand that THE UNTOUCHABLES was universally praised by lots of critics at the time of its release, but for all the classic moments surrounding this movie, I can't shake off the feeling that Ennio Morricone's popular score are sometimes misplaced on certain scenes. Then there's the somewhat wobbly first-act that introduces Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and the subsequent plot where he fails big-time on his first raid at a warehouse.

Despite some of the minor flaws, THE UNTOUCHABLES remains a captivating piece of cinematic work that remains a must-see for movie fans.

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