The Untouchables (1987) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
562 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
fun to watch but fatally flawed
MartinHafer17 August 2005
This movie was exciting and I could easily see the average viewer being impressed by it. Provided you only view it as ENTERTAINMENT and not history, you'll be fine. For its value as history, it is far less realistic than an episode of Mr. Peabody and Sherman (as he uses his WayBack Machine on the Bullwinkle Show to visit the past). Although Elliot Ness was a fine person, he was NOT responsible for the arrest or conviction of Al Capone. Sorry, it just didn't happen that way. Also, although it DID provide some realistic violence, the baseball bat scene with Capone was incredibly brutal and cannot be corroborated. Plus, some kids seeing this might just need an extensive round of therapy as a result. I guess this isn't a surprise, though, coming from the ultra-violent Brian DePalma. He is, apparently, a great genius as a director, though I am incredibly concerned what sort of spiritual cancer he has planted within all of us with his insistence on horrific violence. He and others like him will defend their right to free speech, but I can't help but feel a little dirty after watching his films.
11 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Riveting take on the old TV show
TheLittleSongbird23 May 2010
I have seen many movies, and while The Untouchables is not the best movie of all of them, it is one I enjoyed enormously. There is so much to recommend it and I found it great to watch. The story is riveting and well constructed, and while he doesn't show off as such, a good thing in my book, Brian DePalma does let loose with some very inventive not to mention bloody set pieces. See the climax at the railway station for instance, while essentially a nod to the famous Odyssey steps sequence in the Battleship Potemkin, it was brilliantly done all the same. Speaking of DePalma, he does do a wonderful job directing.

That isn't the only reason why the Untouchables was such a hit with me. There are many more reasons. The dialogue is like crackling fire works, it is witty, intelligent and sophisticated, and some of it goes by surprisingly quickly. Ennio Morricone is one of the finest film composers ever, his score here is no exception, as it soars very like an eagle in full flight. And we have some truly sparkling production design, I love films with beautiful sets, scenery and costumes and The Untouchables scored highly in this area. Then we have very strong acting, Kevin Costner mayn't be to everybody's tastes but I think in his star-making turn he gave one of his better performances in this film. Andy Garcia joins the team with enthusiasm, and a plumped-up Robert DeNiro as Al Capone is wonderful as always. However, in my opinion, as the Irish cop who shows Costner the ropes, Sean Connery one of the most charismatic actors around gives the best and even perhaps most memorable performance here.

Overall, a wonderful film, with an awful lot to recommend it. 10/10 Bethany Cox
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"If Capone Puts One Of Your's In The Hospital, You Put One Of His In The Morgue"
bkoganbing22 January 2009
Not that I'm complaining mind you because The Untouchables is a quality motion picture that got Sean Connery an Oscar for a lifetime of work, but one fine day we just might get the real story of Eliot Ness and his Untouchable squad of Treasury agents. For those who are fans of Brian DePalma's film it's no more accurate than the famous Untouchable series in the Fifties or its counterpart in the Nineties.

The plain truth is that Eliot Ness's operations against Al Capone's liquor supply did hurt him economically somewhat, but hardly slowed down his operation in Chicago. As for the income tax conviction that eventually did land Capone in Alcatraz, it was accomplished by the hard working accountants in US Attorney George W. Johnson's office. In the film that is the Clifton James character and Ness and his squad did work for him, but Charles Martin Smith's character would not have been an Untouchable.

Whatever else Ness was, he was a master of generating good publicity for his work, the same way J. Edgar Hoover was, or Thomas E. Dewey, right down to Rudolph Giuliani in our time. That is in fact, part of a good crime fighter's job, the more people know of your successful good work, the more cooperation you get from the public. When Ness who went on to become the Chief of Police in Cleveland and then unsuccessful Republican candidate for Mayor of same, his career and finances took a nose dive. Just before he died he worked with writer Oscar Fraley on a memoir of his work and this became the cornerstone of The Untouchables franchise. Very much like what Wyatt Earp did just before he died, giving interviews for an authorized biography by Stuart Lake which became the basis for all the Wyatt Earp films done since the Thirties.

Unlike the original TV series The Untouchables, Eliot Ness's Scandinavian background as versus the Italian Al Capone is made much of in this film. Kevin Costner is your basic good guy and Robert DeNiro joins a great list of actors like Rod Steiger, Neville Brand, and Jason Robards, Jr. in interpreting the volatile crime boss of Chicago who has come down in legend himself.

Costner's a Boy Scout in this business and as Sean Connery says to him, those kind of rules are out the window in dealing with people like Al Capone. His bit of philosophy given to Costner when Costner recruits him for The Untouchables is the title of the review. Connery plays an honest patrolman of Irish descent who hates dishonesty, but also don't think a little prejudice against the Italian Capone isn't involved in his thinking as well. Jimmy Malone is a broad and expansive part that Sean Connery can work wonders with.

To be honest I don't think The Untouchables is Connery's best work, one friend has told me The Name of The Rose is his favorite, another has said Woman Of Straw is his favorite. My personal favorite among Sean Connery's performances is the incredibly neglected The Molly Maguires. But like John Wayne's True Grit, Sean Connery's Oscar is for the work of a lifetime for a man who may be the most well known international film star we've ever had.

Now Billy Drago's Frank Nitti is a performance that will leave you chilled for days and susceptible to pneumonia. That it's far from the real Frank Nitti and that Nitti did not end the way Drago does in the film is irrelevant. But that's just another inaccuracy of the film.

Brian DePalma wasn't trying for accuracy, he was trying to make an entertaining film. In that he succeeded.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Grew On Me
Michael_Elliott9 March 2009
Untouchables, The (1987)

**** (out of 4)

DePalma's suspenseful tale of Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his untouchables (Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia) trying to bring Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) to justice in 1930's Chicago. It's strange what time can do for a film as it can either help or hurt it and in the case of this film it really seems to have helped it a great deal. I first saw this movie in the early 90's and found it rather weak and the next viewing didn't help much either. Now, being more than fifteen years, I decided to pay the film another visit and this time it really hit me as to why so many have called it as masterpiece. I still wouldn't call it DePalma's greatest film but it's certainly right up there and I couldn't help but wish we'd get this director back to making films like this. The film has a lot going for it but we can start with the visual style, which is at times breathtaking. DePalma has always been known for his style and that mixes extremely well with the scenes of early Chicago. Another major plus is a wonderful music score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. The score really puts you in the time and place of the setting but it also does a great job at pumping up the action as well as building the suspense. The train station sequence is one of the most memorable in the film but try watching it without the volume and without the score. It certainly isn't the same. Another major plus are the performances by the all-star cast. Costner is at the top of his game as the laid back ness and that's what makes Connery's performance so great. The two are completely different but together they make for an excellent team and you can't blame Oscar voters for awarding Connery the Best Supporting Actor. Garcia and Charles Martin Smith never get the credit they deserve but they too offer up fine work. I'm rather split on DeNiro because the screenplay really doesn't do him any justice as Capone seems to just be dropped into the film from time to time without any real need. I'm really not even sure we had to see Capone for the story to work. The film is rather brutal, violent and at times very suspenseful and this is why it remains so memorable today.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Near-brilliant gangster drama
Leofwine_draca25 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A typically overblown crime drama from Brian De Palma which - although it can't reach the heights of his earlier SCARFACE - still offers the goods in terms of pure, intelligent cinematic entertainment. A sharp script (written by David Mamet) and some surprisingly good performances from the cast combine to make this unmissable entertainment, a perfectly-formed film with excellent use of theatrical direction. De Palma is stylish at every turn, using his camera in innovative ways and developing some outstanding set-pieces along the way. Also boosting the film's epic value is a solid contribution to the soundtrack from Ennio Morricone which helps create the era and atmosphere wonderfully.

The cast is uniformly good, especially the five leads who all give above average performances. Kevin Costner has always been a much-maligned actor but he gives a nicely subtle turn here as the family man with a conscience who finds himself up against one of the biggest crime bosses in history. All of the scene-stealing goes to the Oscar-winning Sean Connery, himself unforgettable as the chirpy Irish cop Jim Malone; I never thought I'd hear myself say this but he may well be the best thing in the movie! The other, less focused 'untouchables' include a moving and at times funny performance from Charles Martin Smith as an accountant turned shotgun-wielding hero, and a young Andy Garcia as a sharpshooter fighting for the side of good. As the obese villain, Robert De Niro steals his scenes with his own particular brand of method acting, and proves to be memorably scary when wielding a baseball bat.

De Palma's direction is top-notch and a major reason for the film's success; without him it may have been just another run-of-the-mill worthy-but-dull drama, but De Palma goes to painstaking lengths to create an entertaining film. As such, he has received flak for twisting the events away from reality, but in my view a film's main aim is to entertain the viewer, which this does and admirably with it. The violence is strong and powerful and the story at times moving, and the highlight is undoubtedly the train station shoot-out at the finale in which De Palma proves that his use of slow motion is better than anybody else's; the result is unforgettable. As near a brilliant piece of film-making as you can wish for.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Near perfection
SnoopyStyle7 May 2014
It's 1930 Chicago and unofficial mayor Al Capone (Robert De Niro) is holding court. After a bombing that killed a little girl, Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) comes in to take down Capone. After a big failed bust, Eliot is guided by beat cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery). They select new recruit Giuseppe Petri (Andy Garcia). Then Agent Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) comes in with the idea to charge Capone income tax evasion. The four men would battle the murderous Capone and his henchmen as well as a corrupted city.

Director Brian De Palma has raise it to a whole new level. The movie looks immaculate. The scene of De Niro circling the table is iconic. It portrays the violence in such a beautiful way. Then there is the staircase scene. It doesn't get any better than that. Everything including the music and the acting are near perfect. Kevin Costner is under-appreciated in this. He holds the whole movie together. Then there are De Niro, Connery, and Garcia. They are all outstanding. This is probably the best movie that De Palma has ever made. Some may complain about accuracy but that never bothered me in this one.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So much violence...
Horst_In_Translation1 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"The Untouchables" is an American 2-hour movie from 1987, so this one is already over 30 years old and it is one of the most known works by director Brian De Palma for sure. Actually I am a but surprised this has over 250k ratings here on imdb, I did not think it was this famous. But crime always sells in terms of films I suppose, even long after the years of mob glory films à la Godfather. And it probably helps that it is based on real events and a book written by Eliot Ness, the central character here who is played by Kevin Costner during his days when probably no female would have pushed him out of their bed(room). Kinda ironic the real Ness survived all this and then died from a heart attack still relatively young. But let's take a look at the film now: It won former James Bond Sean Connery an Oscar, his biggest career success, and managed more nominations, including one for Ennio Morricone. I watched this movie as part of a retrospective on the legendary composer and I am actually really glad this way they get old films back to the theater, especially if they are as interesting to watch as the one we got here. I would say that for me it lived more through individual scenes than the plot as a whole, but that was fine because there were really many memorable moments. One would be the first meeting on the bridge between Connery and Costner. Of course the spectacular scene at the train station, even if the buggy moments were maybe a bit over the top, but the rest of it was just as good as it gets. Of course then everything right before and after the death of Connery's character. The umbrella delivery. Or also when the finance guy is killed in the elevator together with the one who has many information on the main antagonist. I still must say this finance guy's rise to gun action was a bit too much reality-wise perhaps. Or the final scene with Billy Drago who has great recognition value as always in perhaps his most known movie and career performance, although I always think of Charmed with him. And then of course everything involving Robert De Niro, who is as good as always playing the legendary career criminal Al Capone. A truly haunting turn by him, also in these scenes when he does not smash a man's head out of nowhere. The baseball monologue is probably still his greatest moment, but there are several others too. He almost feels like outside this movie a bit because he almost never shares screen time with the title characters. Except on two occasions when Costner's Ness meets him, first of all a victory for Capone, but in the end when we see them with their upper bodies directed at each other, which was just an amazing shot honestly because they have been going against each other all movie long and in this scene it also culminated completely with Capone's superiority completely gone (as his bribe did not work out) and his anger fully reelased. It was kinda funny when he physically assaults his lawyer because he pleaded guilty.

Okay what else can I say about this movie. It certainly was good enough to deserve a few more lines. For me it is definitely among the more memorable and best films from 1987. There is great attention to detail like also with the little item Connery's character always carries with him and that we see at the end and the words he would have wanted a cop to have it. Of course not always everything works out, but with the high quality all around it comes easy to ignore weaker segments and characters like the photographer who could have been left out completely for all I care. Oh yes the words in the title of my review are memorable enough too, perhaps the best quote of the entire film and there were really many great ones, so it means something. The film could have perfectly ended afterwards with the closing credits rolling in after said quote, but it went on for a little longer still. The actual ending wasn't bad either with Ness saying he's gonna have a drink now that he is allowed to again, which shows that it is not personal for him the job he so relentlessly pursued before that, but he is just a true professional. We also see that during the speech when he talks to the other cops about how he does not care they had drinks occasionally and like alcohol. Or when our finance guy takes a quick drink in-between during the scene when they catch the first guy whose knowledge can get Capone behind bars. Honestly still I found that scene not too great and memorable as some may like it and with how good it could have been. It was slightly messy. But when they move on to the interrogation, it gets better. Honestly when Connery shoots that dead fella in the head right in front of the other guy's eyes, that was pretty funny and badass no kidding. He sure was old school here. But he managed to end up as a nice mentor nonetheless, somebody whose heart is in the right place and honestly with how long he lived after taking all these shots to his torso shows how much of a tough nut he is. I am not sure he gave the best supporting performance that year (kinda showing the BAFTAs did not honor him, but Americans did, the Globes too), but his career adds true greatness and fun and interesting scenes to this movie, so I am glad he won it, obviously also because I really dig Bond. Now sorry I am drifting a bit away. What I actually wanted to say is that you should also pay attention to how Costner suffers for a moment when he shoots that guy because with his native language maybe he did not understand that he was supposed to throw away his gun. So he is not that much of a tough nut, which we also see through his family background. He has a lot to lose for sure and his wife (Clarkson early career performance, but as forgettable as she always is) and kids are clealy more important to him than his work which we see from his reaction after Drago's character threatens them. But not too soft for the job either and if necessary also very violent which we see during the rooftop scene. I won't go into detail about this one, go experience it yourself. Oh yeah and one I did not mention yet was Andy García, he was fun too, especially during his introduction scene. After that he did not have too much to work with anymore other than taking the crucial shot in the great train station scene I already mentioned. He went on to become an Oscar nominee les than five years later for another fairly famous crime movie. Okay I guess that would be all now. Thanks for reading until here. I think by now you should know that I highly recommend this movie to everybody. It is inspired, interesting and includes several memorable characters. Go for it, also you girls. Don't let anybody tell you this is a guys movie. There is a lot more for you to see here than prime Costner!
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A classic crime thriller
bob the moo29 October 2001
The story is one of legend: Al Capone prohibition era reign is brought down by crusading Treasury agent Elliot Ness. What makes this better than any other version? Many factors. Firstly the director is one of the greats (when he's on target). De Palma has his weaknesses but he is technically proficient and excellent at creating tension in set pieces. Here he creates a spirit of adventure in the character of Ness but also delivers several very tense scenes where the action is slowly built up to.

Secondly the story is strong enough to keep the interest throughout - you know the story but the style of telling is slick and the characters draw you in. It is a fascinating tale of the times, even when it has been fictionalised like this.

The main factor looking back is the strength of the cast from top to bottom. Costner (before his career imploded) is excellent as Ness, the righteous man pushed over the limits of his morality in his quest to do right, and shows the internal struggle going on inside well. De Niro enjoys himself as the unpredictable Capone and many of his scenes here have become part of everyone's knowledge (the baseball bat!). Garcia and Martin Smith do well in support while Connery is strong as Jim Malone, the Irish (!) beat cop who becomes Ness's mentor. I'm not sure the Oscar was totally deserved but it's still a good performance.
1 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Old School Chicago
Prismark1011 September 2016
Upon its release a film critic commented that calling The Untouchables the best gangster film since The Godfather II is not saying much. As there have been hardly any good gangster films since Coppola's sequel.

Brian De Palma known as a visually interesting but flawed director got a rather campy television series and made a bravado film filled with his visual touches. It is inspired by his love of Hitchcock and meshed it with an artful gangster thriller scripted by David Mamet.

Kevin Costner plays the boy scout Elliot Ness in Prohibition era Chicago who is initially humiliated. After meeting beat cop Malone (Sean Connery) he assembles a team of Untouchables to take down Al Capone (Robert De Niro) for tax evasion.

The film looks terrific. De Palma excelled in the art direction, the stage setting, costumes and photography. There is a bombastic and at times cheesy score by Ennio Morricone (just hear those sentimental tunes each time Mrs Ness appears.)

Yet the film hits bulls eye despite some hokiness. De Niro plays Capone as camp and loud. Each appearance is a set piece, whether he holds court with the press, cries at the opera or beats someone up with a baseball bat.

De Niro apparently had each hair in his head individually plucked in order to have Capone's moon face look.

Sean Connery dominates as the Irish cop Malone teaching the street smarts to the green Ness on how to take down crime 'the Chicago way.' Yet this is a cop with a Scots accent and who can forget the line: '...brings a knife to a gunfight' before being shot a thousand times.

Andy Garcia gives a star making performance as the cool rookie and sharpshooter George Stone. Charles Martin Smith almost steals the film as the meek agent Oscar Wallace whose idea it was to go after Capone for tax fraud.

There are spectacular set pieces such as the homage to Battleship Potemkin with the pram and baby descending down the steps.

The film is a good blend of action, humour and violence that stands up as a classic 30 years later. De Palma makes sure that the violence is not as overpowering as in his previous gangster film Scarface. He behaved himself here and this is probably his most accomplished film.

De Palma would once more return to adapt an old television series in the 1990s when he made Mission Impossible a film series that still continues to this day.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
When movies really work, they go deep into your soul.
mark.waltz1 January 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those period action movies where you feel the urge to cheer everytime the good guys win, when the bad guys get killed, and when the music (by Ennio Morricone) swells to an emotional crescendo. This is popcorn cinema at its best, maybe not based on complete fact, but giving its audience a great time in a two hour period that flies by.

Even the most violent parts of this film about Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and the fight against the Al Capone mob can bring out laughter as long as it's the good guys winning. There are indeed many sad moments here, starting with the bomb that goes off in a little girl's hand, left by the sinister fictionalized version of Frank Nitti (Billy Drago in his most famous part) who has an evil smile made bigger each time he kills or makes a threat.

Drago continues the terror with the shocking violence towards certain members of Ness's team. They include Charles Martin Smith as the nebbish accountant who finds out that he's handy with a gun, Andy Garcia as the Italian American, tough on the outside, but boyish when it comes to his humble nature and genial personality, and especially Sean Connery as the veteran Irish American beat cop who gives Ness the tools he needs to fight Robert DeNiro's Capone.

With the Oscar winning performance of Connery, this combined the original James Bond with Costner, the most popular movie hero of the 1980's, and they are an incredible team. In her film debut, Patricia Clarkson is the epitome of sweetness and love, her radiant smile hiding the worry. When I first saw this in the theater, I had a feeling she's go onto bigger things, and she was getting bigger parts within the next year, going onto becoming a beloved major film, stage and TV actress.

Connery truly commands every moment that he's on-screen, even in his brief moments with DeNiro, absolutely chilling as the manipulative Capone, a complete hypocrite in his claims of how he does business. The tensions in this build up to a very violent attack on Connery that does go on ridiculously far too long and defies any sense of reality. But that's the emotional key that wakes Ness up to his determination to bring an end to Capone's reign of terror and the classic scene at the Chicago train station, a homage to the silent masterpiece "Battleship Potemkin". So much perfection, and oh that score that sticks in your heart long after the movie is over.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"You fellows are untouchable, is that the thing?"
classicsoncall1 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There are two great sit-up-and-take notice moments in "The Untouchables", and if you've seen the movie you know what they are. The first is when Robert De Niro's Al Capone decides to take batting practice on one of the members of his Chicago mob. I guess the guy wasn't a team player. The other occurred in the latter half of the story, usually described as the baby carriage scene, and which may itself have been inspired by the 1925 silent film, "Battleship Potemkin". What I find incredible is that I've just watched these two movies back to back, and am constantly amazed when my viewing experience offers moments of cosmic serendipity like this kind of coincidence. For the reader who might not know what I'm talking about, you'll recognize the events if you see both films, and you don't have to do it the way I did. The scenes stand out in a way that makes them memorable whenever you watch the films.

If I was casting this picture, I wouldn't have chosen Charles Martin Smith to play Agent Oscar Wallace. Smith has the type of face and demeanor that calls for roles like the ones he's portrayed in "American Graffiti" and "The Buddy Holly Story". Be that as it may, he did a credible job as part of the Untouchables team. Another scene that's a grabber occurred when beat-cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery) 'killed' a dead man to convince a potential snitch that he should testify against Boss Capone. That was a daring ploy that worked pretty well.

The one thing I wish film makers and script writers would avoid is denying historical facts when coming up with a story line. Here I'm thinking about the death of Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) as established in the movie, a major departure from the real event. Nitti actually committed suicide, despondent over indictments handed down for extorting the Hollywood film industry to avoid union problems while filming. The 'accidental' death of Nitti shown in the film may have added to the drama of a dedicated Eliott Ness (Kevin Costner), but if you know the real story, something like that only makes you groan.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Complete Fiction, But a Fun Movie
gavin694221 January 2013
Federal Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) sets out to stop Al Capone (Robert DeNiro); because of rampant corruption, he assembles a small, hand-picked team.

The film starts with a beautiful opening shot, showing why Brian DePalma is a legendary director who knows colors and angles and how to make things seem larger than life. He continues this throughout the film, making everything look golden.

Historically, I think the movie fails. This is really more a film version of the television series than a film version of any real events. Some things, like the ledger and the jury switch, are based on reality. But the Frank Nitti here is nothing like the real Nitti, and to present Ness and Capone as bitter enemies is not particularly accurate -- the men never met.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Untouchables
jboothmillard18 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is the true and excellent story of the man who wanted to put away a crime king named Al Capone (a very well cast Robert De Niro), from director Brian De Palma (Carrie, Scarface). Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) has been trying to prove that Capone is a bad man for a long time. Now he is assembling a bunch of men to help him prove it once and for all. These men include George Stone (Andy Garcia), Agent Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) and the excellently played and very intelligent Malone (Oscar and Golden Globe winning, and BAFTA nominated Sir Sean Connery). Malone is the one with all information of where bad stuff happens, and ways of proving facts about Capone and his empire, they media name them The Untouchables. Unfortunately, when Wallace and Malone are assassinated Ness has to carry out the court case himself with some help from his left over "Untouchable". An excellent story full of crime, drama, giggles and fantastic actors. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design and Best Music for Ennio Morricone, it won the BAFTA for Best Score, and it was nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Kevin Costner was number 93, Sir Sean Connery number 8, and Robert De Niro was number 2 on The 100 Greatest Movie, Connery was number 3 on The 50 Greatest British Actors, De Niro was number 50 on The 100 Greatest Pop Culture Icons, and he was number 5 (with Al Pacino) on The World's Greatest Actor. Outstanding!
10 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good Movie, But I Still Prefer Stack Over Costner As 'Elliot Ness'
ccthemovieman-13 February 2007
I never could quite reconcile Kevin Costner's somewhat-high and weak voice with some of macho characters he played when he was younger, but I can get past that after a film has settled into the story. Costner is a good enough actor to make me believe he's anyone after awhile.

However, after years of growing up watching Robert Stack playing "Elliot Ness" on TV on the hit series, "The Untouchables," it took me a bit to accept Costner in that role. That part will always belong to Mr. Stack.

At first, he just did not speak with the authority of a tough Chicago cop out to get Al Capone and the racketeers from the Prohibition Age in Chicago. His partner, "Oscar Wallace," played by the little nerdy-looking Charles Martin Smith as a gun-toting T-Man, is even harder to believe. Of the "good guys," Andy Garcia is the only likeble and believable guy. Sean Connery has the best character in the film ("Jim Malone") and is the most interesting to watch.

Nonetheless, it's a good story with good characters and just about he right amount of action. It moves very well, which tells me the movie is entertaining. There are a few memorable scenes, such as the shootout at the train station with the baby carriage descending the stairway and a memorable scene with Robert De Niro as Capone.

This is a tough, very violent and bloody movie.....nothing like the old TV show.
15 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Professionally Crafted Cop Thriller
rmax30482316 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
None of the TV channels seem to rerun episodes of the superior 1960s series, "The Untouchables," with Robert Stack as Elliot Ness. If they did, no explanation of who the untouchables were would be necessary.

They were a small group of hand-picked agents from the Department of the Treasury, supposedly "untouchable" because they were shrimp pink and incorruptible. Their primary job was to battle Al Capone and, shortly after his being sent up the river, Frank Nitti in Chicago. The whole city was more than ordinarily corrupt during and after prohibition. After all, bootleg booze brought in a lot of money and, as Lord Acton should have said, money corrupts and absolute money corrupts absolutely.

Here we have Kevin Costner as the idealistic but naive Elliot Ness who recruits his honest first lieutenant, Sean Connery, whom he finds walking a beat on the Chicago streets. Connery is a crusty old battle horse. His advice to Kostner goes something like this: "If your enemy brings fists to a fight, you bring a knife. If he brings a knife, you bring a gun. If he brings a gun, you send him to the morgue." Curiously enough, this particular line has been taken up and used in current arguments about conflicts with nations like Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Seriously.

Connery helps Kostner get his act together. They hire an as-yet-untouched recruit from the police academy, Andy Garcia, and the team is sent an appointment from the Treasury Department, Charles Martin Smith, a pipe-smoking begoggled accountant seconded from Book Keeping who finds himself turned into a hero.

Al Capone is played in an operatic style by Robert DeNiro, who enacts a tactic for imposing his will that is borrowed from Nicholas Ray's "Party Girl." DeNiro is fine. He is apoplectic when Ness confronts him in a hotel lobby and challenges him to a fist fight.

The team is triumphant but the happy ending is tempered by the terrible losses. The plot and dialog are effective in capturing a particular, brutal sort of masculine world. The only family we see is Ness's and it's used to pump up the threat quotient. Hardly any friends exist outside the cohesive group itself. There's a recurring refrain -- "It's good to be married, right?" -- and we must accept that it is because Ness's family dynamics are flawless. None of the other three members of the team seem to have families.

With one notable exception, "Casualties of War," Brian De Palma's movies irritate me to a greater or lesser extent. Too much Hitchcock. At some point, "homage" must turn into "shameless rip off." Of course the suspenseful techniques work, otherwise Hitchcock wouldn't have become Hitchcock.

Yet, it's still distracting when we see a point-of-view shot of an assassin approaching Sean Connery's apartment. The camera peeks through the windows as it follows Connery along the hallway, but when the camera steps on a board and it makes a creaking sound, causing Connery to glance at the window, the camera quickly slides to the side and hides against the brick wall. In a long take, the camera (that is, let me repeat, the killer and the viewer) open a window, glide through, and examine each room in the apartment until it and we and he discover Connery and he turns and aims a shotgun at he, we, and it. Holy Saint Jude -- enough is enough!

That long and unprovoked point-of-view sequence would have been disdained by Hitchcock. The sources here are unquestionably the horror and slasher movies of the period, such as "Friday the Thirteenth." There is another long, largely slow-motion sequence at Union Station involving a baby carriage bouncing down the stairs. The director's sources are getting classier. This one is no less than Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potyemkin."

I'm having a little fun at the movie's expense but, as these things go, it's effectively done. A nicely put-together action thriller about a real historical group of tough cops who got the job done. If it's not entirely historically correct, so what? All stories of good and evil are partly fantasies. Relax and enjoy it.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A fine gangster movie
Tweekums10 November 2018
Set in prohibition era Chicago where gangster Al Capone lives the highlife with apparent impunity a new lawman, Treasury Agent Elliot Ness is brought in to clean up. He quickly learns that most of the local police can't be trusted so builds up his own small team. These include veteran beat cop Jimmy Malone, sharpshooting rookie George Stone and Oscar Wallace, a Treasury Department accountant who believes Capone can be brought down by examining his lack of tax payments. They quickly make progress, intercepting illicit alcohol and more importantly arresting somebody with information that could bring Capone down... this puts them in the sights of Capone's gunmen.

This fictionalised version of how Elliot Ness brought down Al Capone is a lot of fun with great characters and some fairly gritty action. This action includes a young girl killed by a bomb and Capone killing somebody with a baseball bat as well as numerous shootings. The cast does a fine job with Kevin Costner putting in a relatively low-key performance as Ness which contrasts nicely Robert DeNiro's bombastic Capone. There are also notable performances from Sean Connery who is fun as Irish cop Malone despite his obviously Scottish accent. The story moves at a good pace and even though most viewers will know how it must end there are some shocks along the way. If you are a fan of the gangster genre this is definitely one to watch.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Brilliantly and stylishly recreated story about Elliot Ness and Al'Scarface'Capone
ma-cortes2 March 2009
This splendid film is set during Prohibition era Chicago in the 30s . Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) gets the government's go-ahead to form his own particular group of relentless , honest Federal Agents (Sean Connery , Charles Martin Smith , Andy Garcia) to combat Al Capone (Robert De Niro) and his hoodlums, specially Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) . Ness reunites honorable, upright cops to fight corruption and the grandiose mobster . It leads in forays against heinous racketeers , corrupt bootleggers and other evil enemies . At the beginning they fail miserably and the crusader anti-alcohol cops bust out , though finally score . The Chicago Dream is that big . No one messed with Al Capone, but Eliot Ness messed with him AL CAPONE. He ruled Chicago with absolute power. No one could touch him. No one could stop him. - Until Eliot Ness and a small force of men swore they'd bring him down. What are you prepared to do? .Never stop fighting till the fight is done

This is a violence-ridden story full of action , drama , thriller and being pretty entertaining . Intelligent and suspenseful script by David Mamet (Pulitzer winning playwright) . Spectacular shootém up on the station steps remains with echoes of 'The battleship Potemkin' (Sergei Einstein,1925) . Kevin Costner is excellent as impulsive and obstinate enforcer fighting against the underworld crime . Sean Connery (Academy-award winning acting) plays in perfection a veteran , incorruptible police who takes under his experience and protection to Ness . And Robert De Niro overacting in a serious-comical role as the nasty Capone . Flamboyant and rich photography by cameraman Stephen H. Burum. Sensitive and emotive musical score by the great master Ennio Morricone . The motion picture was beautifully directed by Brian De Palma . This superb recounting will appeal immensely to Kevin Costner and Sean Connery fans.

Other adaptations about Capone are as follows : ¨Capone¨ with Rod Steiger and ¨Capone¨by Steve Carver with Ben Gazarra . And others mostly realized for television , such as : ¨The Scarface mob (1962)¨ by Phil Karlson with Robert Stack and Neville Brand and ¨Elliot Ness¨with Tom Amandes and William Forshyte.
17 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
the untouchables revised and given a new treatment by Brian De Palma
dbdumonteil11 November 2006
"The Untouchables" is reckoned as one of the kingpins in Brian De Palma's filmography by the insiders and his devotees. I would tend to agree with them and to be conducive about this general contention with however certain reservations.

This transposition of the well-known TV series is surely one of his less personal works. His obsessions with Sir Alfred Hitchcock take a back seat and we're quite far from the thriller genre with grisly, bloody effects which helped to build the filmmaker's reputation. Actually, "the Untouchables" appears as formulaic in the presentation of events: Chicago during Prohibition under the control of the underworld with its main leader Al Capone, here acted by Robert De Niro whose performance is however less startling than in "Angel Heart" (1987) by Alan Parker, released the same year. A young fresh FBI agent Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) rises up against him and has a yearning to make him fall. After a failed police raid in Capone's warehouses, he teams up with a seasoned cop, Malone (Sean Connery) and hires a band of volunteers who share his same determinations and then their hopes soar. But some members are killed including Malone. This doesn't help Ness's men to arrest Capone's accountant and his financial registers...

It's sure that De Palma wanted to remain as close as possible to the historic reality. It seems that everything in the film from the scenery to the making was recreated to capture the stifling atmosphere of the Prohibition and the spirit of the film noir in the thirties but the contents of the film is very classic as a whole. And it's often aggravated by a streak to excessive effects, one of De Palma's main drawbacks. Visual excesses which are mostly present in shoot-out and fight sequences like Malone's slow death. Ditto at another level for Ennio Morricone's majestic but overwhelming music. But once again and like in some De Palma's works, the rumbustious form compensates the contents despite bombastic tendencies. Three seminal sequences would deserve to be legion in the filmmaker's canon: the western sequence with the Canadian mounted police, Malone's death, the arrest of the accountant by Ness in a shoot-out sequence doubled with a wink to Eisenstein's masterpiece "the Battleship Potemkine" (1926).

It's rather acceptable stuff but I favor Phil Karlson's terse style on the same domain with "the Scarface Mob" (1959).
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
still at the top of my De Palma list; stellar cast with a tight ball of a script
Quinoa19843 April 2006
Among the top five films of 1987, and filmmaker Brian De Palma's career, is the Untouchables, a firecracker kind of Hollywood film that gives the story of Elliot Ness versus Al Capone some great panache. And it's the kind of great film that is so only through the combined efforts of everybody, not just De Palma, even as it is his vision (sometimes playfully homage-like, as I'll mention in a moment), but his cast, crew, and the script by David Mamet.

The cast here includes Kevin Costner, in one of his three or four passably good performances, in the Ness part (like his later Jim Garrison role, the confident if a bit conflicted hero); De Niro in a ham-bone best as Capone, with one of the more eye-opening and funny scenes he's ever done (eg with a bat); Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia in juicy supporting roles. And then one comes to Sean Connery, in his deserved Oscar winning turn as Irish cop turned Ness partner Jim Malone, who has the toughest words and the biggest guts of the group. It's in his work here, where he has some of that confidence of past performances into a very real character that makes it quite a piece. Aside from the sheer presence of a star like Connery on screen, there's some depth he gives to the character too, just as De Niro does with his choices as an actor (even if his role is the larger-than-life one).

De Palma, at his disposal as a craftsman, has good editors and camera people working alongside him, as well as Ennio Morricone on music (a small 'yey' emits from my mind). Through them his film is a slick, but not overbearingly at all, kind of 1930's Hollywood picture, with a story of the cops versus robbers, in some unconventional circumstances. The centerpiece of the climax, De Palma's homage to Eistenstein's Battleship Potemkin, is operatic and grandiose and puts the drama of what was in real life likely quite different into a spectacular sequence, is as entertaining as it could be. While it's not the only action sequence in the film, one could point to just that one sequence as being a true highlight of doing homage well. In truth it's been a little while since I've seen the Untouchables, and maybe even longer since I've seen it from start to finish (and, unfortunately, never on a big screen). But I wouldn't dare to tell you not to watch it if you haven't yet.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Cops Vs. Crooks Epic
sunwarrior1324 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The Untouchablesis an account of the battle between gangster Al Capone and lawman Eliot Ness, this time in the form of a feature film boasting big stars, a big budget, and a script from respected playwright David Mamet.This crime drama is directed by Brian De Palma.Based on the book of the same title, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot Ness together with Robert De Niro as gang leader Al Capone and Sean Connery as Irish-American officer Jimmy Malone.Charles Martin Smith,Andy García and Patricia Clarkson co-star to play key supporting roles.All of the credits also includes music from Ennio Morricone and costumes by Giorgio Armani.

The story follows Elliot Ness' autobiographical account of his efforts to bring Capone to justice during the Prohibition era. Ness is a federal agent who has come to Chicago during the Prohibition Era, when corruption in the local police department is rampant. His mission is to put crime lord Al Capone out of business.But Capone is so powerful and popular that Ness is not taken seriously by the law or the press. One night, discouraged, he meets a veteran patrolman, Jimmy Malone and discovers that the acerbic Irishman is the one honest man he's been seeking. Malone has soon helped Ness recruit a gunslinger rookie, George Stone and joined by nebbish accountant Oscar Wallace, the men doggedly pursue Capone and his illegal interests. At first a laughingstock, Ness soon has Capone outraged over his and Malone's sometimes law-bending tactics, and the vain mobster strikes back in vicious style. Ultimately, it is the most unexpected and minor of crimes, tax evasion, which proves Capone's undoing.

Director Brian De Palma continued his tradition of including a homage to past masters of the cinema with a taut stairway shoot-out that is Slick on the surface but loaded with artful touches.This is a classical gangster thriller is a sharp look at period Chicago crime, featuring excellent performances from a top-notch cast particularly Sean Connery,who won an Oscar in it.It's one of the all-time great gangster flicks, a gorgeously realized production that places archetypal heroes and villains in the service of a rip-roaring story line.It is a masterpiece that is an exhilarating, moving and larger-than-life cops vs. crooks epic.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Fish's Eye
tedg21 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

De Palma is never about story, nor actors, but about the eye. However, here he has some help in writing and acting that he rarely gets, making this his most accessible and popular picture.

There is no one better than Mamet for this kind of writing. (`This town stinks like a whorehouse at low tide' -- pretty good stuff.) Costner and Connery are relatively weak actors, but this is a good fit for them. (I'm told that Connery's natural Scots accent makes him completely goof the intended Irish.) Deniro hadn't begun his slide into laziness yet. The score is apt as well.

Still, to appreciate this you have to ignore all that, even though it is good enough, and focus on what is excellent -- how the camera moves within the frame. It is not De Palma's best in my mind: `Snake Eyes' is the film that shows his talent most purely. But this is great filmmaking cinematically. Every shot has motion in the camera; often smooth movement that perfectly complements the movement seen. De Palma is the true son of Hitchcock -- Hitch's camera ballet was a major component of the story: who can forget for instance the goodbye Babs shot down the stairs and out the door in `Frenzy.'

De Palma's camera is less bound than Hitch's. It swoops and turns and explores and navigates without gravity which always informed Hitch's eye. De Palma's vision is less intrinsic to the story, but that's the point -- we are detached, swimming angels, not of the world displayed -- not low tide.
11 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
bevo-1367831 March 2020
Gruesome. I like the bit where he bashes the man with a baseball bat
0 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Never stop fighting till the fight is done, here endeth the lesson.
hitchcockthelegend4 March 2008
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 evil.

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 the 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...
61 out of 96 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Terrific except a major midcast
searchanddestroy-14 October 2019
Yes, I enjoyed this extraordinary movie made by a Brian De Palma in his best years, with his own trade mark, the railway station scene....Acting and editing awesome. The only big mistake concerns the cast. The Frank Nitti character played by Billy Drago is a rael mistake; OK Drago is a great villain but only for grade Z movies, not a feature of this frame. Look out for the Frank Nitti character in the series THE UNTOUCHABLES, played then by the gruesome Bruce Gordon, THAT was a very good cast for this role, and not Billy Drago. The late Billy Drago.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I Wasn't Impressed
Theo Robertson8 November 2004
THE UNTOUCHABLES came out in an explosion of acclaim in 1987 with the critics hailing it as " a masterpiece " and " An instant classic " but after seeing the movie I was wondering if I'd been watching the same movie .

My own theory as to why so many cynical movie critics liked it might have had something to do with the very poor standard of movies in the mid to late 80s which seemed to involve either teenagers getting killed in a variety of gruesome ways or a couple of well dressed cops pointing their guns while the billboard hot one hundred plays in the background . Off the top of my head I can think of only one movie from the same period that deserved much praise and that was PLATOON

It could also be remembered that THE UNTOUCHABLES has a great cast list with DeNiro , Connery and a couple of rising stars in Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia , but the screenplay fails to focus on any one character . You do get the impression that it has been re-written to death in order to accommodate the big name stars . Personally I thought Capone should have been the main protagonist with Ness in the background with tough wily Irish cop Malone absent altogether . Maybe that was the intention with the original script but it had been changed with the casting coup involved ? Sticking one or two factual elements into the story would have helped too

The more De Palma movies I see the more repetitive his directing techniques become . Long panning shots , slow motion sequences featuring bloody deaths . It was good in CARRIE but had become old hat here

Oh and if it was such a great 1987 release how come it didn't get a massive load of Oscar nominations ?
6 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed