The Untouchables

The Untouchables ★★★★

Brian De Palma's The Untouchables is one of those late eighties minor classics that gets remembered as the film that finally saw Sean Connery bag an Academy Award. Now I'm Scottish, so big Sean is loved in our house, but having the most well-known Scottish actor of his generation playing an Irish cop in prohibition Chicago seemed like a waste of Sean's natural brogue? Weren't there any Jocks in Chicago's police-force back then? Or was this simply De Palma trying to knock him out of his stride?

The Untouchables is a very stylish looking film, bearing all the hallmarks that Brian De Palma honed effortlessly throughout his career. Telling the story of Treasury Agent Eliot Ness' attempt to bring down Chicago mobster Al Capone, this crime film settles for a mixture of fact and fiction to deliver an engrossing gangster film that cemented Kevin Costner's growing reputation as a leading man. Featuring Robert De Niro as the ruthless gangster Capone and the now sadly deceased Billy Drago as his henchman Frank Nitti, this has an impressive cast on both sides of the law. Costner has Sean Connery of course, and a very young Andy Garcia alongside Charles Martin Smith who plays a Treasury accountant looking to nail Capone for tax evasion. Patricia Clarkson also makes her screen debut as Ness' wife Catherine here, but this is a testosterone heavy production that pits heavyweights against up-and-comers. Costner's Ness is a crusader, but naïve and in need of advice on how to fight Chicago's biggest mobster. Step forward Connery's Jim Malone, the one honest beat-cop on the streets, and soon The Untouchables are born, a group of incorruptible agents with no fear of Capone. There's action galore, plenty of violence, and between Costner and Connery a chemistry that helps carry the film. David Mamet's script is fresh and manages to thrill, but the score from Ennio Morricone is something to behold. It has the same stunning effect that the rattle of tommy-guns can bring to a shootout, and alongside the vintage period detail of Marilyn Vance's costume design helps make this more than just a generic crime flick.

Historically a little iffy, few films of the time have the shimmer that Stephen H Burum's cinematography brought to this, and it remains one of De Palma's most successful films at the box office. Despite the talents of De Niro, I must admit his Capone ranks well behind Stephen Graham's personification of the gangster and it'll be interesting to see how Tom Hardy gets on portraying Scarface in the upcoming Fonzo?

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