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The Untouchables (1987)

Action & Adventure movie directed by Brian De Palma

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A Compelling Urban Drama

  • Oct 9, 2003
Rating:
+4
It remains for others far better qualified than I am to comment on this film's historical authenticity. The fact remains, as so capably directed by Brian De Palma, it offers compelling entertainment as Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his associates eventually obtain the indictment and conviction of their nemesis, Al Capone (Robert De Niro). How ironic that one of the most ruthless and brutal of underworld figures should eventually be sent to federal prison for tax evasion. Although not an epic, this film does have scope and depth far beyond the television series of the same name. Credit David Mamet (in collaboration with De Palma) for a crisp screenplay, Ennio Morricone for an especially effective score, and Stephen H. Burum whose brilliant cinematography captures the recreation of Chicago during the 1930s. He also does very well with the presentation of the shootout at the Canadian border.

I remain convinced that with regard to Kostner's acting, less is more. (That is best illustrated near the end of Field of Dreams when he asks his father to play catch.) As Ness, he is credible. My own opinion is that Charles Martin Smith (as Oscar Wallace) delivers the strongest performance but Sean Connery (as Jim Malone) received an Academy Award for best supporting actor. To his credit, Connery continues to earn a handsome living impersonating himself, whatever the role may be. I was also favorably impressed by Billy Drago's performance as Frank Nitti. In that role, Drago exudes lethal menace. Del Close makes a brief but memorable appearance as a corrupt public official, appearing in Ness's office to offer a bribe. After adding about 60-75 pounds, De Niro plays Capone with exuberance and self-assurance, then with volcanic rage as he realizes that the "Untouchables" have finally prevailed. Although not a great film, it offers a well-crafted account of a specific time and place unique within U.S. history, indeed a benchmark period during the never-ending struggle between vicious criminals and those brave men and women who oppose them.

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More The Untouchables (1987) reviews
Quick Tip by . September 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
On the surface "The Untouchables" is a cool, slick, stylish and gritty period crime thriller has a top-notch cast stellar direction and an Oscar worthy score. However, sadly, beneath the surface the film is all style and no substance, it lacks any real depth of character or sense of direction. It felt as if the whole film for its 1hr.59mins was on autopilot and you are along for the ride. Nicely done but it could have been so much more.
review by . May 14, 2003
The Untouchables has made most lists of the greatest films ever made, and for good reason. Paramount has released a DVD film of the film as part of their Widescreen Collection (originally enormously over-priced at $29.99; now re-priced to $19.99). The Untouchables easily makes my best films ever made list, and the DVD isn't so bad either.THE FILMLoosely based on the old 60's TV show (which was loosely based on the book by Eliot Ness, which was, in turn, a true story), the film places Kevin Costner …
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Robert Morris ()
Ranked #169
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Wiki

As noted critic Pauline Kael wrote, the 1987 box-office hitThe Untouchablesis "like an attempt to visualize the public's collective dream of Chicago gangsters." In other words, this lavish reworking of the vintage TV series is a rousing potboiler from a bygone era, so beautifully designed and photographed--and so craftily directed by Brian De Palma--that the historical reality of Prohibition-era Chicago could only pale in comparison. From a script by David Mamet, the movie pits four underdog heroes (the maverick lawmen known as the Untouchables) against a singular villain in Al Capone, played by Robert De Niro as a dapper caesar holding court (and a baseball bat) against any and all challengers. Kevin Costner is the naive federal agent Eliot Ness, whose lack of experience is tempered by the streetwise alliance of a seasoned Chicago cop (Sean Connery, in an Oscar-winning performance), a rookie marksman (Andy Garcia), and an accountant (Charles Martin Smith) who holds the key to Capone's potential downfall. The movie approaches greatness on the strength of its set pieces, such as the siege near the Canadian border, the venal ambush at Connery's apartment, and the train-station shootout partially modeled after the "Odessa steps" sequences of the Russian classicBattleship Potemkin. It's thrilling stuff, fueled by Ennio Morricone's dynamic score, but it's also manipulative and obvious. If you're inclined to be critical, the movie gives you reason to complain. If you'd rather sit ...
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Details

Director: Brian De Palma
Genre: Action, Adventure
DVD Release Date: January 16, 2001
Runtime: 119 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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