The Untouchables (1987)


The Untouchables (1987)

A tour-de-force of late 80’s cinema, bringing a classic tale a justice to the screen with impeccable performances all round from Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and the dangerous Robert De Niro as the king of prohibition Chicago Al Capone.

The Untouchables (1987) is a thrilling story from start to finish. With an authentic Italian soundtrack provided by the ever original Ennio Morricone, who places in the 30s with a hint of the Italian gangster culture that has been cultivated by Hollywood cinema. Brought to life more so with the near type-casting of De-Niro who delivers a powerful performance as Al Capone.  A role that could only be filled by himself. A role only the likes of Edward G. Robinson could fill if he lived so long to tell this tale.

A tale of the good American Elliot Ness rising up to take on organised crime that had come to consume the city of Chicago, much like the need for alcohol on the streets again. Only creating more crime in the wake of such a ridiculous law that proved near-impossible to enforce. Reaching into every pore of the law enforcers. Yet not the likes of Jim Malone (Sean Connery) an Irish beat cop who wanted to do good by his uniform and the law that he chose to uphold.

Meeting along the way an eager young police cadet (Andy Garcia) who himself could have slid through the cracks to the underworld crimes influences. And lastly Agent Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) who finds a glimmer of hope for this group of men known as The Untouchablesas they fight the bootleggers, playing at their own game and even going further at times to get what they want. The law is a different breed in Chicago, that needs to be met with more violence to get the attention of the gangs that have come to be the law behind  the scenes.

Visual a stunning film, that places you in the era without a doubt, paying respect to the lineage of cinema, most notably in the form of the book-keeper gun scene in the station, re-staging with a hint of melodrama the pram scene from the silent classic Battleship Potemkin (1925). The pallet of stones and pastels on-screen remind you of 1930’s cinema, the gangster films, how black and white films may have been if we were not hidden behind the camera.

Director Brian De Palma grounds ness in a family life, unlike the other members of the group who have no real ties, making them easier targets for Al Capone’s men, we feel their loss, but feel nothing beyond that for any family, as only one family is being targeted throughout the film. There was sadly no real threat of danger to Ness’s family who are quickly taken away to a safe location, maybe this allowed for the film to progress. And I never saw a 9 month bump when we next see Patricia Clarkson on-screen. I’m guessing all the padding was with De Niro’s costume, which I easily forgive, allowing for a better performance and on-screen presence. He is able to play the larger than life roles, taken on previously the younger Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974).

Thankfully law prevails as they bring Capone to justice, even at the expense of a fresh jury to ensure justice for all involved, leaving the audience in no doubt that the facts however loosely they are left in tact, it’s the tax-dodging that finally catches up with him.

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