The Untouchables

The Untouchables ★★★

It's hokum, of course, a fairytale of Treasury Department officials doing the right thing and outplaying a corrupt Chicago power structure as well as organized crime, all to uphold the law of the land regardless of that law's justice or injustice - a tale that makes Ness much more instrumental than he was in reality, a sort of avenging angel, a curse to the smug, self-satisfied success that was De Niro's Capone, a man who was slipping into the dirty thirties and hadn't realized it - a power mix of toxic masculinity, old-school policing and questionable methods. It says as much about the 80s and Reagan's America as it does about the 30s, as many period films do of their times.

However, that's mostly okay. As hokum, as a fable, as a sort of 'Once Upon a Time in Chicago' it mostly works. De Palma worked it as a paycheck gig, and it's somewhat fascinating to see his skill with the camera when working with material that feels somewhat.....divorced, philosophically, from his usual interests. Mamet's screenplay has a LOT of quotables, and the actors are clearly enjoying sinking their teeth into it, even if what they're saying is often risible. Armani's costumes, Morricone's score, and the handsome Chicago locations make the film a real aesthetic experience that holds up. De Niro is having a blast, Connery had his career revitalized (rightly so), Garcia is good enough that you wish he had more to do, Billy Drago, bless him, got a career out of Frank Nitti (again, a person whose fate was much different in real life) but for Costner in particular, it's a real seminal moment - for younger film fans, it may seem a bit weird, but Costner was a HUGE star in the late 80s and early 90s, and this was a moment where it clicked for him - there's a transition happening on screen between the earnest, self-righteous persona that would power his 90s epics, and the off-kilter, cowboy energy that kind of drove him through the 80s, and he manages to balance both sides of that star image in his portrayal of Ness with what feels like effortlessness.

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