The Untouchables (1987)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness
Sean Connery as Jim Malone
Robert De Niro as Al Capone
Elliot Ness is a cop in Chicago who decides to take down Al Capone’s criminal empire with his group of four cops who call themselves “The Untouchables.”
The Untouchables was the ending to a shitty week of films that I needed. The Untouchables is everything I could ever want in a gangster movie and more. I love the story of Al Capone’s downfall, he’s one of the most interesting criminals in history (speaking of which, I’d love to see a biopic of his rise to power), and I also feel some personal connection to it because my grandfather was born in prohibition era Chicago, and his father bought bootlegged alcohol from Al Capone before Capone’s gang became an empire. While I know that The Untouchables takes a lot of artistic license in making this an action film, when in real life, Capone never tried to kill any of the untouchables and simply tried to bribe them, I think they did the story justice. I love Brian De Palma’s style of filmmaking, he uses a ton of slow motion, close ups, and lots of homages to old films. My favorite sequence in the entire film is the train station shootout on the stairs, entirely slow motion, referencing Battleship Potemkin‘s Odessa steps massacre scene with the baby rolling down the steps. I keep telling myself that I really need to watch more of De Palma’s films, because I really like his style. He’s one of the best auteurs in the game, and when he’s working with the right team, he can really do something special. One thing I’ve noticed in the few films I’ve seen by him is he really likes focusing on music. Phantom of the Paradise has one of the best soundtracks of the seventies, and Scarface tries to feel modern by using synthesizers (I hated Scarface’s music, but it is a big part of the style of the film). With The Untouchables, De Palma brings classic spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone in, one of my favorite composers of all-time, and he uses the music to make this gangster epic feel like a western. The trumpets, guitars, harmonicas, and everything else in this score would feel right at home in a Sergio Leone epic. I think De Palma chose to use this music to establish prohibition as a kind of lawless society, even though cars are driving around, and everyone is in trenchcoats and fedoras instead of cowboy boots and hats, this society is operating just like the wild west. Morricone’s score might not be something I’d like on my iTunes playlist, but it fits the film like a glove. I also really have to praise David Mamet’s script, he’s one of my favorite playwrights, American Buffalo is one of my ten favorites plays ever written. Mamet’s script is awesome, the man knows how to write dialogue like no other. It’s quick, clever, yet realistic and believable. The cinematography looks stunning, the use of shadows is reminiscent to old film-noirs, and the lighting reminds me of The Godfather. In the end, everything about this movie was great (except for Kevin Costner, that guy can’t act). It’s an incredibly entertaining, action packed adventure through gangland Chicago.