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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was not expecting this movie to be this bad. With Depalma, De Niro,
and what looked to be a huge budget with a story that is already
compelling enough in real life, there's no reason to make a film this
absent of quality.
You can tell within the first ten minutes of the movie that the score is going to ruin the movie. The music was either cliché (smooth touching melodies in every single last moment of vulnerability in the movie) or "action music" that feels like it belongs in homeward bound, not a crime movie. Music was even put into places where it make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Indeed, it sets the tone for the movie itself, which is a tone of farce more than grit.
This movie just reeks of farce, from the accountant mowing down people with a shotgun with the nerdy grin symbolizing his transformation from mild mannered nerd to empowered bad-ass to the completely arbitrary scene of Robert DeNiro hitting a guy with a baseball bat (no back story,no plot movement, seemingly no reason for it to be in the movie whatsoever)to Sean Connery getting blasted with seemingly dozens of machine gun bullets, bleeding enough to have died three times over, and yet still having the power to gasp a few more words just as Elliot Ness gets there before finally dying. This movie is filled with enough corny commercial movie tricks and clichés that it just cannot be taken seriously. This is not a bad thing if you're making a Disney movie, but when you're making a crime drama, (especially one based on real life) realism is probably the way you want to go.
This is not even to take into consideration the awful acting throughout the movie. This actually may be why the movie so heavily relies on cheesy music. The actor's performances were so weak that it required cheesy music to make them look better. Kevin Costner is just not a great actor and none of the supporting cast is exactly Daniel-Day Lewis. Sean Connery won an academy award for his performance somehow. I suppose his acting may have not been particularly bad, but his character seemed so manufactured and out of step with reality that he simply couldn't be taken seriously. Maybe in a completely fictitious story it would have worked, but again, not in a story based on real people and real events.
If you want to see a farce that tries to be serious, every movie cliché in the book (this is no exaggeration, just look for them) an out of place and overdone score, and substandard acting, then this is the movie for you. I somehow doubt, though, that the target audience for this movie were movie watchers who enjoyed this type of film. Take out the violence and this movie belongs next to Pete's Dragon on the movie shelf. It's a disgrace to Al Capone and Elliot Ness both and to anyone who likes good movies.
Quite a few words spring to my mind when I think of The Untouchables.
Words like: Excellence, entertainment, larger than life and Sean
Connery. These words basically summarize the entire film from my point
of view of course because in my opinion (which I don't expect people to
agree with) this is the best gangster film there is. Obviously people
aren't going to agree because people prefer the likes of the operatic
Godfather trilogy or the ultra realistic Goodfellas but in my head The
Untouchables is the best.
Here are a few reasons why. First reason is that The Untouchables is just so darn entertaining. All the other films had completely different aims and even though I love a deep and brilliant story my main objective when I see a film is to be entertained and basically no film does that better than The Untouchables. That does not mean, however, that The Untouchables is just some half baked action comedy. No. There is genuine emotion and real story in this film. The story is, as most people know, loosely based on the actual events during the prohibition era in USA in the 1920s (the story is also based very, very loosely on the series that go by the same name) which to some extent means that what we see on the screen is real making the characters and general story seem that much more believable. This also adds greatly to the already very high entertainment value of the film because it draws the audience in. To add to the realism of the film the dialog is also very memorable and there are some great one-liners including some of my all time favorites in this film.
The acting is nothing short of brilliant. This is without a doubt Kevin Costner's best role. Some people have remarked that he seemed stiff and unable to portray the emotion of the character and to that I can only ask: Were we watching the same movie?! He is a hundred percent believable all the way through. In the beginning he seems a bit too much like a square I-wanna-do-some-good kind of character but as the story progresses he really evolves and becomes more and more emotionally involved in what he does. Both in his friends and in the cause. He even bends some of the rules he initially tried so hard to uphold. Brilliant. Charles Martin Smith does a good job as well and even though his character is very limited he still manages to pull the audience in. Andy Garcia appears in this film in a very limited role as well and he serves his purpose brilliantly. He is the sharpshooter of the group and he is perfectly believable in that part. He doesn't get to say much but what he does get to say is said with as much passion as I have ever heard from him (he seemed a little stale and lifeless in Godfather III). Robert DeNiro is great as Al Capone. He steals every scene he is in and he really brings the larger-than-life quality to the character which is extremely fitting. The film's best performance belongs to Sean Connery though. The film is for lack of a better expression a Sean Connery tour-de-force. Not only does he steal every scene he is in but he also brings the certain indescribable something to the character that he always does and in every situation you feel with him (as you do in all his films whether he is a villain or a hero). He also got a well deserved Oscar for his performance. People have claimed that the Oscar wasn't as much for this particular performance but an Oscar in recognition of his contributions to the film industry. This belittles his performance which I can safely say is the best of his career and one of the best displays of acting that I have ever seen.
The film also has a memorable score made by the legendary Ennio Morricone who is perhaps best known for the work he did with the equally legendary western director Sergio Leone (who doesn't know the score from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and in my opinion the score he did for The Untouchables is the best he has ever made. The score is very unlike most scores from the 80s which does that the film doesn't feel like an 80s film as much as Scarface which I find inferior to this masterpiece. The score is grand and epic just like the story and the effects. For an 80s movie the effects are pretty amazing. Once again everything works.
All in all The Untouchables is a riveting story which is highly recommendable to all fans of crime/gangster movies.
10/10 - on my top 10 of best films
"The Untouchables" is in my opinion De Palma's greatest work, with his
other masterpiece, namely "Scarface", coming a very close second. In
"Scarface" the focus is on a paranoid and self-destructive gangster who
rises to meteoric heights and then falls; in "The Untouchables" the
focus is on a very honest man with a noble mission, Elliot Ness
(Kostner), who is prepared to do anything to clean Chicago from the
corruption and mayhem caused by the notorious gangster Al Capone (De
Niro). His quest is really tough, as his opponent is determined and
powerful, but he has the help of three invaluable partners: Malone
(Connery), a no-nonsense experienced cop, Wallace (Martin Smith), an
accountant who will try to help bring tax charges against Capone, and
Stone (Garcia), a great shooter.
As I noted before the film is brilliantly directed, with some scenes such as the one with the baseball bat, or the one with the baby in the train station, having become classic. The acting is superb, and while Connery was the one who received his well-deserved Oscar, Kostner and De Niro made Oscar-class performances too.
Although belonging to a typical genre, this film certainly stands out. Don't miss it! 10/10.
Outstanding production that was the best film of 1987 with the exception of the very dominant "The Last Emperor". "The Untouchables" is the story of Elliot Ness (perfectly played by Kevin Costner) who tries to bring down Chicago Mob boss Al Capone (Robert DeNiro in one of his most under-rated roles) during the early-1930s. Illegal liquor smuggling and other much more serious crimes are running amok and corruption is all over. Costner realizes very fast that he must hand-pick his own men to bring DeNiro down for good. Thus he enlists the help of a young cop from the academy (Andy Garcia), a wimpy book-keeper (Charles Martin Smith) and a hard-nosed Irish beat cop (Oscar-winner Sean Connery in the performance of a lifetime). Together they slowly start to peel through the multiple layers of protection to get DeNiro for good. It seems that the fact that DeNiro has been lax in paying his income taxes could be his ultimate downfall. Beautifully directed by Brian De Palma, "The Untouchables" stands very tall with the other great productions of the 1980s. Ennio Morricone's Oscar-nominated score is one of the finest the cinema has ever experienced. Really excellent. I have no negative comments on this production. 5 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been debating how hard to come down on 'The Untouchables' since I watched it again the other day. I don't know anything about the background of the film; whether it was made in a hurry or if there were problems with the production or a lot of re-shooting afterward. All I know is that with all the talent involved and the subject matter chosen, this should have been a masterpiece, a classic along the lines of 'The Godfather' or 'Goodfellas,' but sadly it doesn't even come close. To say it's an enjoyable little film about nabbing Al Capone is damning it with the slightest of praise. I mean, look at the cast. Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, even Robert De Niro! Can't get much better than that. So it's not them; they do what they can with the material. David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay (or at least gets credit for it), is one of the greatest living American authors. And yet the screenplay is as flat and thin as cardboard. It is almost impossible not to feel that other hands were involved in the story and dialogue; it has practically none of the incisiveness or bite one typically associates with Mamet. The director is Brian De Palma. That's where I'm laying the blame. I have never felt De Palma is the great director some claim him to be and there are many aspects of 'The Untouchables' which reinforce my opinion- multiple examples of shameless audience manipulation and tired clichés. The geeky accountant who becomes a bad-ass during a confrontation and kills a bunch of bad guys. The adoring wife who has one expression, one that says "I love you so much my heart might melt." The old Irish cop who dispenses endless pearls of wisdom and lessons-in-life. The straight-arrow leader who has a personal code he never violates. And all of this is put forward in such a ham-handed fashion; there is no subtlety to anything here. What's even worse is we never really get to know the characters; they are painted so broadly, they never register as anything but stereotypes. But there are SOME good bits in 'The Untouchables.' Mainly Robert De Niro, who is always interesting to watch. His shorthand impersonation of Al Capone strikes me as a throwaway, but it's a good throwaway and he manages to invest a fair amount of menace into the character, behind the fake smile and amiability Capone uses to disarm people. The same can more or less be said about Sean Connery (I can't believe he won an Oscar for this though). Kevin Costner is saddled with perhaps the weakest dialogue as Elliot Ness; the film can never decide who he is or what to do with him. At the beginning, reporters ask Ness, why bother to enforce prohibition? Because it's the law of the land, he says. At the end, they ask him what he'll do if prohibition is repealed. Probably go get a drink, he says. I guess that's supposed to be meaningful and profound. There seems to be no logic to the dialogue or situations. At one point, apropos of nothing, Connery's character leads them on a liquor bust literally on the spur of the moment, with no pre-planning, no explanation of how he knows about it. 'The Untouchables' has a climax of sorts in a railway station, then a courtroom scene which makes no sense at all (how can you switch juries at the END of a trial?). This film consistently disappoints; the fact that it still provides a modicum of entertainment is due mainly to the acting skills of De Niro and Connery.
In 1919, over the veto of President Wilson, the Volstead Act was passed,
which made provisions for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment, and
successfully ushered in the era of Prohibition; what it did not do, was keep
people from drinking, or more significantly, keep certain `businessmen' from
selling it, which opened the flood gates to a billion dollar industry of
illegal alcohol. And in the larger cities, the mob bosses jumped onto the
bandwagon with both feet, the most notorious of which was Al Capone, who by
1930 had a thriving business and the city and the people of Chicago in his
pocket. From the cop on the beat to the judges sitting on the highest
courts, everyone seemingly had a price and could be bought. And that's the
way it was until Treasury Agent Eliot Ness showed up for work and hand
picked a squad of honest cops to help him get Capone and clean up the City
of Chicago. `The Untouchables,' directed by Brian De Palma, is the story of
Ness and his men, dubbed `Untouchable' because they couldn't be bought,
though from the beginning the odds were stacked against them. They were a
handful against an army of hoodlums who wielded grenades and tommy guns, and
they could trust no one outside of their own circle, not even the cops with
whom they shared the streets. Many looked upon what Ness was trying to do
as an exercise in futility, but he never gave up, and went after Capone with
everything he had, which wasn't much beyond his own guts and determination
to `do some good.'
Ness's initial efforts were a disaster-- Capone had informants everywhere and always knew ahead of time whenever a raid was going down-- so he quickly realized that the only way to do this thing right was to get men he could trust and keep everything quiet. The bureau responded by sending Ness (Kevin Costner) an accountant, Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), who first had the idea of going after Capone for income tax evasion. Ness then recruited Jim Malone (Sean Connery), a veteran cop who walked a beat and was well versed in doing things `The Chicago way,' and George Stone (Andy Garcia) a crack shot recruited right out of the Police Academy.
Connery gives an exemplary performance as Malone (for which he received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), the tough, Irish cop who becomes something of a tutor to Ness, letting him know from the start what he's getting himself into. How do you deal with someone of Capone's ilk? According to Malone, `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.' It's a perfect part for Connery, whose rugged appearance and demeanor are entirely convincing; he's got that somewhat cynical, world-wise and weary manner of a man who has seen it all, but lets you know that underneath he still holds out hope that some day in some way, right will win out after all. And Connery plays it with a hard, uncompromising edge that makes it so believable, and makes Malone a memorable character. De Palma brings it all vividly to life, building an underlying tension from the beginning that he maintains throughout the film, aided by the intense, sometimes haunting score by Ennio Morricone. Costner gives a solid performance as Ness, but he is somewhat overshadowed by the actors and the characters who surround him, especially Connery as Malone, and Robert De Niro, who as Capone is absolutely menacing and larger-than-life. De Niro captures the ruthlessness that indelibly marked Capone's infamy forever in the annals of criminal history, with a portrayal of him that is arguably the best in cinematic history. De Niro plays it as it lays, presenting Capone as the brutal criminal he was, without attempting to airbrush away any of the attributes that made him so despicable. It's a terrific performance, for which he should have received at least an Oscar nomination.
The supporting cast includes Richard Bradford (Mike), Jack Kehoe (Payne), Brad Sullivan (George), Billy Drago (Nitti) and Patricia Clarkson (Ness' wife). Extremely well crafted and delivered by De Palma, who had a great screenplay (by David Mamet) and a terrific cast with which to work, `The Untouchables' is a powerful, intense film that successfully evokes this particular period in the history of America. And it subtly underscores the true heroics of men like Ness and his crew, who through their fearless dedication possibly made it a little safer for someone to walk down the street, or for an honest man to simply go about the business of making a living-- things too often taken for granted in our busy world today; things that are important, and which makes a film like this so much more than merely entertainment (though it definitely is that). And that's the real magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
It's Prohibition-era Chicago, and mob boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro)
controls the illegal shipment of alcohol into the city. Federal Agent
Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), vows to bring him down. Assembling a crack
squad consisting of: Seasoned Cop Jimmy Maloy (Sean Connery), dead-eyed
rookie George Stone (Andy Garcia), and bookish Accountant Oscar Wallace
(Charles Martin Smith). It is with this simple story that spawns a
beautifully crafted piece of film-making. Sean Connery gives a
compelling performance as Maloy; he's dedicated, determined, and
dangerous. Kevin Costner is great as a man, just out to "Do Some Good".
And Finally, you can't forget Robert De Niro. It must be his general
calm that's so unnerving about him, as if you never know what he'll do
next. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who likes
movies. This movie had me on the brink of tears, had me standing up and
cheering, and had me deeply satisfied and entertained.
My Final Rating: 10 out of 10 - A Must See!
An absolute classic. These three words describe this masterpiece. De Palma and his supreme cast give us what we want. An intense drama about good and bad. A towering performance by Connery as an Irish-American cop with a Scottish accent stand out but Costner, De Niro and the rest of the cast, down to the baby in the Potemkin inspired scene at the train station, deliver great performances. Another reason for loving this movie is, that it is full of really bad editing mistakes. The best one being the roof top scene, where Ness helps Niiti to his car. If you haven't seen it I feel sorry for you. Whether you rent it, or buy doesn't matter. But it is a MUST SEE!
As good a gangster movie that has ever been made as DePalma does
justice to Mamet's electric script. The acting on show is right out of
the top draw, the inevitable ease that DeNiro puts menace into Capone
is quite impressive, whilst the fresh faced pugnacious tenacity of Andy
Garcia's George Stone is something of a delightful experience. Yet that
is not enough because we still need the central actors to carry the
film if it is going to triumph. Connery is a given performance wise
(accent aside of course, but then again who cares when the character
portrayal is as sharp as it is here?) but it is Costner as Eliot Ness
that shines like the star he was soon to become, it's a magic
performance that manages to fuse genuine tenderness of family love with
little trips to the dark side in pursuit of making good triumph over
I love that the film is showing how violence and fear affects families, mother and child is a theme that is central to the film's heartbeat, notice how some of the more violent scenes are followed by tender scenes of Ness and his family. The set pieces here are attention grabbing entertainment, a roaring Canadian border rumpus and a smashing roof top pursuit and face off are top value, but it's DePalma gold watching a brilliant Battleship Potemkin homage at the Union train station that takes the cake as the film enters its last quarter. Surely historical facts does not matter when films are as sharp as this one is? It's frightening, touching, and even witty. So for me at least, the film is 10/10 in every department (and yes, even with Sean's accent).
Footnote: The academy saw fit to nominate Ennio Morricone for his wonderful score, yet strangely he used some of it for the main theme in John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, they must have missed it that time I presume! Must be the genre angle one thinks....
Director Brian De Palma is the son of a surgeon, and perhaps this
explains his high tolerance for the bloodshed that has translated into
brutal, raw scenes in 'The Untouchables'. Then again, this film is set
during one of the bloodiest chapters of American history and demands
unflinching depiction accordingly. Zooming in on prohibition-era
Chicago, a dirty, dingy, crime-infested retreat of mafia, the film lets
us know a special unit headed by Kevin Costner whose objective is to
frame the super villain himself Al Capone (Robert De Niro).
There are, in effect, three or four things that truly stand out about The Untouchablesan otherwise standard crime by-the-numbers rompand at least one of them should be attributed to the surface of the spectacle; the costumework and settings are superbly breathed life into, as is De Palma's accolade, with a screen that is awash with lyrical colours and accompanied by a swelly, jazzy moonlit music score. Another worthy accolade is of course Sean Connery as detective Malone an American-Irish cop on the beat and down with the ways of the street who may deliver one of the worst accents in film history, but makes up for what he lacks in verbal power with heaps of charisma. Malone is given, by far, the best dialogue in David Mamet's script as when he instructs Kevin Costner on how to get to Capone: "He puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue."
Another worthy staple to The Untouchables is its strong individual scenes. In the front row for these sits the notorious baseball bat scene in which a furious Al Capone beats one of his associates' head into a bloody pulp with a bat, right in front of all the guests at the grand dinner table. Robert De Niro gained weight for his role as the crime-lord Al Capone and approaches his character with commitment, but sadly he is ineffective in the film as De Palma does not quite know what to do with him. Instead he craggily intercuts Capone's boisterous speeches and monologues with the template storyline of Kevin Costner's special unit, and the former are incongruous to the key story of 'The Untouchables'. Here it regrettably becomes apparent that the film possesses all the necessary ingredients but no blender in which to stir it and De Palma is largely to blame for lacking the necessary skill.
Having said that, The Untouchables keeps up the appearance of an epic crime film so rigorously through seamless costumes, stinky Chicago accents, vivid chases and a swarming taste to its sets that for a long time we are led to believe that De Palma has truly done it with this film. Certainly there are many scenes that testify to this and aptly camoflauge the shortcomings, such as the suspenseful pre-battle sequence at the Canadian border in which the Western-loving Costner is up on horseback to ambush the incoming shipment. Another is the first meeting between Andy Garcia and Sean Connery, in which the latter decides to recruit Garcia's Italian character in spite of racial feuding (Connery's supposed to be Irish), and instead because he likes his mouthy, bold attitude. Finally there is the unspeakably epic climax scene that plays on operatic in length through a long, glorious slow-motion capture by a staircase, politely nodding to The Battleship Potemkin's 'Odessa Steps Sequence'.
The whole film is in fact an operatic affair with technicalities deluxe. With its mindboggling ensemble (Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson) it is easy to see how it is cuing us in to like it. To some extent it succeeds well, for it is suspenseful, but it is not well sewn-together. What good is a De Niro if you are not going to use him opposite the rest? What good is a Kevin Costner (who has never looked so ridiculously handsome in his career for that matter) if you are not going to let him emote? And lastly, what good is a large handful of fully-fledged wonderful scenes if you are not going to juxtapose them with something, instead of dishing them out every now and then to keep our interest?
7 out of 10
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