Revisited: The Untouchables

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During Prohibition, Al Capone (De Niro) has nearly the whole city of Chicago under his control and supplies liquor at high prices. Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Costner), summoned to stop Capone, conducts raids using a large squad of officers. After his efforts fail due to corrupt policemen tipping off Capone, he meets incorruptible Irish American officer Jim Malone (Connery) and is told to enlist men from the police academy who have not yet come under Capone’s influence. Italian American trainee George Stone (García), is enlisted due to his superior marksmanship and intelligence. They are joined by accountant Oscar Wallace (Smith), assigned to Ness from Washington, D.C.

Wallace informs Ness that Capone has not filed an income tax return in four years; therefore, they can try Capone for tax evasion. Ness is visited by an alderman who tries to bribe him into dropping the investigation, but Ness throws him out. When Frank Nitti (Drago) threatens Ness’s family, Ness has them moved to a safer place, then takes the team to the Canada – United States border for a raid on a liquor shipment. Ness chases one of the gangsters into an empty house and kills him in self-defense. Malone captures George (Sullivan), a Capone bookkeeper, and brings him back to the house for interrogation. George proves uncooperative, so Malone grabs the dead man and shoots him to coerce George into cooperating, much to the dismay of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have assisted in the raid.

At the police station, Nitti kills Wallace and George and writes “touchable” on the wall in Wallace’s blood. Ness angrily confronts Capone and his men, but Malone intervenes, as Capone mocks Ness over the death of his friend. Malone persuades Ness to stall the district attorney (James) from dropping the case, then corners policeman Mike Dorsett, who sold out Wallace and George to Capone. Malone learns about another Capone accountant, Walter Payne, and calls Ness with the news. A knife-wielding thug breaks into Malone’s home; Malone forces him out the front door with a shotgun, but steps into an ambush set up by Nitti. He lives long enough for Ness and Stone to find him, and shows them which train Payne will take out of town before he dies.

Ness and Stone arrive at Union Station and find Payne guarded by several gangsters. After a fierce shootout, the two succeed in killing the gangsters and taking Payne alive. Payne testifies in court about the cash flows throughout the Capone organization, with the result of $1 million. Ness, however, notices that Capone seems unperturbed despite the probability of serving a long prison sentence, and also sees Nitti carrying a gun inside his jacket. He escorts Nitti out of the courtroom with the bailiff and discovers that Nitti has the mayor’s permission to carry the weapon. Ness identifies Nitti as Malone’s assassin after seeing Malone’s address in Nitti’s matchbook.

Nitti shoots the bailiff in a panic and flees to the roof of the building, but Ness corners him. Ness says Nitti will pay for killing Malone, but when Nitti says that he will never go to prison, Ness pushes him off the roof. In the courtroom, Stone shows Ness a document from Nitti’s jacket that reveals that the jury was bribed, explaining Capone’s relaxed mood. The judge has no intention of using it as evidence until Ness bluffs that the judge’s name is in Payne’s ledger of payoffs. The judge decides to switch juries with a neighboring courtroom and restart the trial. Capone is later sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Packing up his Chicago office, Ness ponders the Saint Jude pendant that Malone had carried with him for many years, and which Malone had given to him before dying. He gives the pendant to Stone, reasoning that Malone would have wanted a cop to have it. A reporter mentions that Prohibition is due to be repealed and asks what Ness might do then, Ness responds, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

REVIEW:

It is a new year, so what better way to start the reviews than by going back and revisiting The Untouchables, eh? No worries, newer reviews are coming this weekend.

What is this about?

1920’s prohibition Chicago is corrupt from the judges downward. So in going up against Al Capone, Treasury agent Eliot Ness picks just two cops to help him and his accountant colleague. One is a sharp-shooting rookie, the other a seen-it-all beat man. The four of them are ready to battle Capone and his empire, but it could just be that guns are not the best way to get him.

What did I like?

Bloody. Outside of horror flicks and some westerns, gangster films tend to be the bloodiest pieces of cinema around. Shootouts, stabbings, heads being bashed in…what more can you ask for? I, for one, am glad they didn’t try to water this down or make it excessively gritty. It has the right mix of believable murders with what I call “Hollywood” blood.

Tone. Speaking of the non-gritty aspect of this picture, how can you not be a fan of how we have the good guy, Eliot Ness and the bad guy, Al Capone. In between them, we have some gray characters, including Jim Malone, a seasoned beat cop who is instrumental in helping Ness. All this goes to help the tone of the film reach a gray area of its own, but rest assured, like Malone, that darkness is there to get the job done, and will return to normal soon.

Climax. In my time, I’ve seen some pretty awesome action scenes and shootouts, but if I were to rank them, the climax of this film, which takes place at Union Station, and prominently features, some may say endangers, a baby in a carriage. I won’t spoil it by making a sad attempt at describing, so let’s just say you have to see it to believe. Trust me, you will be blown away.

What didn’t I like?

Inaccurate. Obviously, there are going to be some historical inaccuracies, but I wonder if whoever it was the wrote this even did any research on the subject because of all the wrongness. I could go on for days about each one, but I won’t waste yours or my time doing so. I will say that film like this, which are based on something of historical significance, need to be at least somewhat accurate. Now, if they were going for an alternate history of sorts, then that’s fine, you can do what you want when you go that route.

Capone. These days it seems as if Robert DeNiro has forgotten he was/is a great actor and has been taking some horrible roles in even worse movies. New Year’s Eve, anyone? I’m a little torn on his performance. On the one hand, he manges to somewhat capture a brutal nature of Capone that we have led to believe he was capable of, but on the other hand, he didn’t really sell me with his turning into Capone. As a matter of fact, it seemed as if he just watch The Godfather trilogy over and over again, thinking that would help him. Obviously, it didn’t and, though he won’t admit it, neither did the weight he put on to play Capone. After looking at pictures of Capone, Bob Hoskins, who was rumored to have been up for the part, would have been better.

Dry. For a film about prohibition and whatnot, there sure was a severe lack of alcohol. I wasn’t expecting to see a whole moonshine business like Lawless, but we should have at least seen some kind of production, especially in that bust that Malone led. Maybe I’m just being too nitpicky on that note, though.

The Untouchables is a great film that earned a few Oscar nods, including a win for Sean Connery in the Best Supporting Actor category. It is a mix of action, drama, and a bit of comedy that will have your emotions going up and down. A big selling point for the film has to be the relationship between friends and family that we see Ness go through. That last scene of him looking at the picture of him and men tells you that. It has a few flaws, but I highly recommend this as a must see before you die!

4 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “Revisited: The Untouchables”

  1. […] which is where you would expect it. I found it very similar to the Grand Central Station scene from The Untouchables. Anything goes and anything went. Bullets and blood flew, and I was eating up every minute of […]

  2. […] Cast. Very rarely does one come across a film that has such a perfect cast. Highlighted by the star Jeff Bridges, who manages to capture the 40s essence needs to pull this off. In certain scenes, it almost seems as if he’s trying to imitate Kevin Costner’s mannerisms and such from The Untouchables. […]

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