The Untouchables (1987)

The Untouchables (1987)
The Untouchables (1987) DVD/Blu-Ray

By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –

Desperate to enforce the policies of prohibition, the U.S. Treasury assigned Elliott Ness to create an anti-liquor task force in Chicago, Illinois.  At the time (the 1920s) this Midwestern city was a violent place where corruption was rampant.  Gangster Al Capone had all but taken over, having bought off most of the politicians.  The team Ness assembled was legendarily incorruptible; through force of will, and good detective work, they managed to bring Capone and his henchmen down. 

A Toast

Of course, you could read all that in a history book and get the boring true story, or you can watch Brian DePalma’s ass-kicking version, which eschews historical fact in favor of everything that made cinema of the 1980’s hardcore.

Arnold Gif

80’s Wharrrgarble…

In spite of commercial success of films such as Carrie and Scarface, DePalma was still a very niche filmmaker.  Critics hadn’t fully embraced his unique visual style and propensity for over the top violence.  Audiences hadn’t yet fully embraced Al Pacino’s Cuban accent.

Tony Montana

It would take another 10 years, and 10,000,000 “gangsta” rap CDs to overcome that obstacle

Actor Kevin Costner’s fame was on the rise, but Sean Connery was fresh out of a decade’s worth of underperforming box office.  There was no reason to believe that this film would be successful.  It was with this film however that Brian DePalma finally managed to negotiate his eccentricities with the Hollywood system.  The story is almost comically simplistic, with great leaps of logic that wouldn’t be out of place in an Expendables movie (Hmm, Expendables, Untouchables…). Ultimately what grounds the film are the three key performances.  As Elliott Ness, Kevin Costner delivers a solid emotional performance as a man in over his head, struggling to learn from his mistakes.  Sean Connery as Jim Malone earned his only Oscar for Best Actor, as a cantankerous, but wise policeman who shows Ness the ropes.  Jim Malone is the Obi Wan to Ness’s Skywalker.


With slightly more awesomeness

The third, and perhaps most crucial performance is Robert DeNiro as Al Capone.  Some critics argue that Capone isn’t a three-dimensional character, and I’d argue that wouldn’t have fit in with the sort of film DePalma was making.  The Untouchables is a salute to pulp cinema, and demanded a pulp villain.  DeNiro plays Capone as a sadistic crime boss whose self-involved malevolence made him the king of the trash heap that was 1920’s Chicago.

DePalma saved the movie from feeling simply like low brow entertainment by injecting his flair for visuals and high suspense.  In a key scene of the film, the camera  serves as a first-person view of an assassin stalking a major character.  DePalma had used this in many films before, but almost exclusively in horror, or thrillers.  The action scenes get the DePalma treatment too, with a climactic gunfight modeled after Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.  The movie Gangster Squad recently attempted (with limited success) to recapture the spirit of The Untouchables.  There is only room in the world for one of these movies.


Pulp B-Movie on a Big-Budget scale, and one of the best.


Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when Al Capone shouts

Take a Drink: when Sean Connery lectures

Do a Shot: for each onscreen death.  (Double for a protagonist)

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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