Top 365 Films – #234 – The Untouchables (1987)

Top 365 Films - The UntouchablesDIRECTED BY: Brian De Palma

STARRING: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago, Patricia Clarkson, Vito D’Ambrosio, Frank Nitti and Robert De Niro

BUDGET: $25m

EARNED (Worldwide): $106.2m

AWARDS: 1 Oscar (Best Supporting Actor), 1 Golden Globe (Best Supporting Actor) and 1 BAFTA (Best Score)



Federal Agent Eliot Ness sets out to stop Al Capone; because of rampant corruption, he assembles a small, hand-picked team.


Elliot Ness is a young Treasury Agent who is determined to achieve one thing upon arriving Chicago….to take down Al Capone. He brings a small group together, such as Jimmy Malone, a veteran patrolman, George Stone, who is an academy cadet and Oscar Wallace, an accountant and Treasury agent who want to prosecute Capone for tax evasion and the four do their best to take down Al Capone.


It seems to be easy these days to hate on The Untouchables for being labelled by some as a classic crime/gangster film. Though it may feel dated now and some of the score by Ennio Morricone in the first half of the film may feel out of place, overall I still very much enjoy the film as a whole. The film primarily focuses on the men that take Capone down rather than the latter himself, though Robert De Niro makes a memorable impression in the little screentime he has as Al, being pretty handy with a baseball bat and making the character larger-than-life, in a way only Capone himself could. Perfect foil for Eliot Ness to take down, a noble man with the moral code to do good and not be bought out along with his colleagues, almost with a beacon of American righteousness about him. Though his colleague, Jim Malone, who becomes a mentor of sorts questions him throughout the film, ‘What are you willing to do?’ The set designs are good looking, particularly that of the courthouse and the church in particular and the way that De Palma frames the camera in them scenes, his POV shots (in particular one looking on at Malone and deciding to enter his house via opening the window) and for the action sequences (Union Station shootout). Kevin Costner is good as Ness, as is Andy Garcia as Stone (though not in it quite as much as I remembered), Billy Drago as Frank Nitti and especially Sean Connery as old school veteran Jim Malone, the best Scottish sounding Irish-American I’ve ever known.


FAVOURITE SCENE: Thanks to the information that Malone got, Ness and Stone arrive at Union Station to find the bookkeeper, who’s guarded by several gangsters. In the crossfire is a woman with her child in a pram, leading to a long builtup before Ness is discovered by one as to who he really is, leading to a shootout and homage to The Battleship Potemkin.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.’ – Malone

DID YOU KNOW?: Brian De Palma met Bob Hoskins over a drink in Los Angeles to discuss playing Al Capone if De Palma’s first choice Robert De Niro were to pass on the role. Since De Niro had not yet said yes, Hoskins told De Palma he would do it if he were available. When De Niro finally took the role, De Palma sent Hoskins a thank you note, and the studio paid Hoskins, who had a “pay or play” deal, $200,000. Hoskins called De Palma and asked if there were any more movies the director did not want him to be in.

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