One of the hits of 1987, The Untouchables took the true story of Eliot Ness, examined the facts in his autobiography, and illuminated the Prohibition Era in a style that was original and visually breathtaking.
This is a violent film (It opens with a ten-year-old girl blown to bits by a bomb) but the violence is not gratuitous – It’s part of a violent era, and it belongs there.
The Untouchables is really a study in American corruption on an epic scale. From gangsters in $800 suits to period cars and Duke Ellington songs, the look and feel of Prohibition Chicago is a tapestry of perfection. And the performances are flawless.
Sean Connery (pictured below right), as the only honest cop in Chicago, won an Oscar for his gutsy role as the man who teaches Ness his first lesson in street warfare.
Andy Garcia, as a crack-shot rookie Italian cop with steel nerves, and Charles Martin Smith, as the nerdy accountant who hatches the scheme that finally sent America’s Public Enemy No. 1 to the slammer for income tax evasion, are wonderfully vivid.
Kevin Costner is crime-fighter Ness – The clean-cut, all-American hero.
Robert De Niro is a terrifically toad-like Capone – a wily, cigar-chomping Edward G. Robinson kind of thug, and also a fat, sentimental slob who weeps over an aria from Pagliacci one minute and orchestrates a mob war the next.
De Palma throws in a great set-piece, with a gripping railway station shoot-out, and the whole is irresistible entertainment in the manner of a bygone Hollywood era.
“I want this guy dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground. I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!”
Robert De Niro
Charles Martin Smith
Brian De Palma