Friday, February 7, 2014

Untouchables (1987)

Brian De Palma returns to the world of gangsters. This time he travels back to the Prohibition era, instead of revisiting the world of Scarface. With David Mamet on board for the script and Sean Connery bringing some class to the cast you'd think the buzz would be about the film. Instead all anyone on TV could talk about was how much weight Robert De Niro gained for the part. Kinda missed the point there folks. Thing is, you may not notice his chubbiness with all the bullets and blood flying.

Prohibition rages throughout the United States, and gangsters like Al Capone (Robert De Niro) are making a killing, and killing anyone that gets in their way. Things have gotten so bad in Chicago that a special unit is formed to take down Capone. The leader of that team is Eliot Ness (Kevin Coster) a man with a strong sense of justice and a desire to uphold the law. Unfortunately Ness is thwarted the rampant corruption in the police force, and finds himself at a loss. So he creates a band of incorruptible, untouchable men who will strike Capone where it hurts.

There’s Jim Malone (Sean Connery) a beat cop whose world-weary experience guides the team. Sharpshooter George Stone (Andy Garcia) is the youngest member of the team. Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) may be an accountant, but his research into Capone’s finances may provide the key to bringing down the gangster. But arrayed against them are a bunch of Tommy guns, exploding children and a wicked henchman played by Billy Drago. Will Eliot Ness and his Untouchables be able to clean up Chicago?

Good Points:
  • Some great dialogue and entertaining performances
  • De Palma’s brisk pace and visual flourishes keep things interesting
  • Balances the action with human drama

Bad Points:
  • Some of the acting choices are… interesting
  • The visual flourishes will rub some folks the wrong way
  • This is one violent movie and bloody movie

This is one of those movies I loved in my youth. I loved the energy to it, and the way De Palma filmed the Prohibition era. I was wondering if I would still enjoy it so many years later. Some of the shine has worn away, but the movie is solidly entertaining. Some of the dialogue is still very quotable. Some of the visual sequences are still impressive. And while Connery’s accent seems a bit silly to me these days, his performance gives the movie a nice heart. I enjoyed revisiting this one.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Was this as long ago as 1987? Perhaps because I'm old enough to remember "The Untouchables" TV series with Robert Stack, I still tend to think of this as recent.

    I like the story (which I hope is true) that De Palma approached Bob Hoskins for the part of Capone but dropped him when De Niro accepted. De Palma sent Hoskins a check for 20,000 pounds as consolation. Supposedly Hoskins rang back and said, "If you've ever got any films you don't want me in, son, you just give me a call."

    1. Ok that is a great story. I've never heard that before. You know, Hoskins could have done a pretty good job in the role. As important as Capone is to the story, he's not in the movie very much at all.

  2. Funny story Richard.

    I enjoy this movie too. It has a certain nostalgic flare, that at least in my mind is how I visualize that era. Pretty violent in parts, but also has a certain homespun wholesomeness to Cosner's Eliot Ness' character family setting and trying to make society a better place.

    1. Yeah, if this movie gets remade (I'm not hoping for that or anything, so Hollywood - DON'T DO IT), I can see them making Ness more moody, conflicted and dark. You know Eliot "Dark Knight" Ness. It is kind of refreshing to see a hero played as just a plain good person these days. It made me appreciate Costner's performance a bit more. Usually he doesn't click for me.