The Untouchables

The Untouchables ★★★★

(The Average Joe’s Movie Club Cast Episode 11)

Brian De Palma’s prohibition-era gangster film soaked in blood and campy Hollywood cheese!

“You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?”

Even watching The Untouchables back in high school I remember thinking to myself how silly it felt. But my growing appreciation for De Palma and noticing the contrasting styles he used while approaching this story, went a long way toward me liking it more on this rewatch. In the story we have Kevin Costner’s Boy Scout like character Eliot Ness who is out to defend the law of the land against Al Capone, played by Robert De Niro and his bootlegging empire. Capone’s power has been built off the support of corrupt law enforcement, but Ness looks to put an end to that trend by assembling a team of pure Untouchable cops.

A major element used to dial up the cheesiness factor is the big score from legendary composer Ennio Morricone. I loved the up-tempo main theme in the opening credits, but the heroic anthem when they are making a big bust and that melodramatic saxophone tune when he is feeling embarrassed about being faked out, really helps sell the camp. By far the most Hollywood moment was the scene up in Canada when they are on horseback, almost like one of Costner’s Westerns as they are joined by Monties to make a big bust.


Then to contrast Ness’ Boy Scout mentality we have Sean Connery’s very hammy 'do whatever it takes' persona. I feel like Connery’s character lays it on a bit heavy with his tough guy mentality, with all the cursing and ethnic slurs he throws around. But overall thematically his approach is what encourages Ness to step up his team, in order to take on Capone at his level. And the stylistic side of this grit that De Palma uses, is what really grabbed my attention. It all starts with getting to see a little girl blown to bits at the beginning, then there is that brutal baseball bat scene with blood flying and oozing all over the table, Connery shooting that dead guy in order to manipulate the other guy to talk, the murder massacre in the elevator, and Connery’s drawn out death scene.

That death scene is set up in such De Palma fashion, as we first see the point of view of this unknown assassin creeping through his apartment. Also the extreme camera angles were an interesting way of showing off the great period set design. This begins with the opening over head shot that zooms into Capone, the low angle shot of Costner and Connery talking in a church, and it's all over the place in the third act when we get these great shots looking directly up at Costner and we can see the ceiling above him. Then I suppose the shoot out on the stairs was a mix of camp and this gritty approach, as a baby carriage goes in slow motion down the stairs as Costner shoots up the gangsters. But it was cool to see this scene have a great ending with Andy Garcia’s sharpshooting subplot paying off.

Final quick hit thoughts on The Untouchables:

- Very cheesy roof falling scene special effect there at the end

- Deniro is great as Capone, and it would have been even better if we saw more of him

- I loved the one kind of split screen he uses with showing both the opera singer and Capone in a shot

- There is not much going on with Ness’ wife as a character, other than her standing there and giving him long supportive gazes

“Word is they're going to repeal Prohibition. What'll you do then? … I think I'll have a drink.”

So the end of the film takes a jab at how silly prohibition was with Ness once again admitting that he had no problems with alcohol, just lawbreakers taking advantage of the corrupt system and cops.

De Palma is not necessarily a Director that I ever previously felt compelled to follow closely. But now after seeing so many of his films in the Criterion Collection in addition to his most popular work, I have definitely become more interested in checking out the rest of his filmography and starting with movies like ‘Carlito's Way’ and ‘Carrie’.

Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!

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