Movie #96: The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, and Robert De Niro

Academy Awards (1988):

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Sean Connery

Academy Award  Nominations:

Best Art Direction-Set Direction: Patrizia von Brandenstein, William A. Elliot, Hal Gausman

Best Costume Design: Marilyn Vance

Best Music, Original Score: Ennio Morricone

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” Word is they’re going to repeal Prohibition. What’ll you do then?”

“I think I’ll have a drink.”

Chicago, 1930.  Federal Agent Eliot Ness (Costner), along with veteran beat cop Jim Malone (Connery), Treasury Agent Oscar Wallace (Smith), and rookie cop George Stone (Garcia) take down Al Capone (De Niro) at any and all cost.

The Untouchables, based on Ness’ autobiography, is a great period piece that makes great use of dramatic effect and incorporates background music to create brilliant suspense.  There’s very little I can be critical of with this film.

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Though he had very limited screen time, Robert De Niro made the most of it as the ruthless crime boss.  His baseball speech worked great, and though it seemed pretty clear that he was going to use the bat on someone, the way in which he gave the speech had a nice build up to that scene-stopping moment.

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This was one of Andy Garcia’s first significant movie roles.  He does great in a more reserved and secondary role.  As a voice of reason following Wallace’s death, I think he does great in portraying how his character knows Wallace was on to something, but he didn’t entirely understand all the legal accounting jargon.  Likewise Charles Martin Smith does great in his supporting role on the task force.  He brings a more light-hearted charter to the film.  De Palma keeps his character as more, for lack of a better word, of a comic relief to a degree.  Even his death scene, though powerful, is not nearly as gruesome as others.

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Earning an Oscar the only time he was nominated for one, Sean Connery steals every scene he’s in.  From Malone’s first encounter with Ness, Connery owns that older, wiser, honest cop.  Though Kevin Costner plays the lead character, he takes second fiddle to Connery’s Malone.  Though I know what will happen when Malone is killed off, the first-person perspective of the gangster is chilling every time I watch that scene.  Great filming coupled with excellent use of background music create the most suspenseful scene in The Untouchables, followed closely by the baby carriage shoot out scene of course.

This is probably one of my favorite Kevin Costner performances.  I find that he does better in these sorts of period pieces compared to other films.  He makes great use of a wide acting range from the embarrassed agent to husband and father and so on.  His progression through the film from wanting to take down Capone by any legal means necessary at the beginning to uses any and all means necessary by the end also allows him to showcase a range of emotions and inward moral struggles that Ness goes through.

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The Untouchables is a great period piece film that has strong acting from many lead and supporting actors.  The cinematography in this film goes a long way in engaging the audience with suspense and build up.  I’d highly recommend seeing this one, though I feel it’s one that I have to take quite a bit of time between viewings.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

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