Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Oscar Fraley (suggested by book), Eliot Ness (suggested by book), David Mamet (written by)
Running time: 119 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15
UK Release date: 18th September 1987
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 15th December 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I saw many years ago and have been wanting to see again for some time now. Fortunately it turned up on TV recently and I was able to record it. A very slick telling of the story of Eliot Ness; his team of ‘Untouchables’ and their fight to bring down 1930’s Chicago gangland leader, Al Capone. I have the impression an awful lot of poetic licence was used here, but then I guess the idea is to make it entertaining after all! Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.
It’s 1930 and Chicago is virtually the property of gangsters like Al Capone (Robert De Niro). They have the police, the courts and all the city officials in their pocket giving them free reign to peddle illicit booze and drugs (prohibition was still in force then). Enter Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) who has vowed to rid the city of these parasites, and in particular Capone. He soon finds that a corrupt police force is no help and so recruits a small group who are incorruptible (or Untouchable as the title suggests). The group members are Ness (of course), Jim Malone (Sean Connery), Treasury Agent Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) and Agent George Stone (Andy Garcia). They begin a violent campaign, taking down Capone’s empire piece by piece but there is never any evidence linking Capone directly to anything illegal. They eventually come across a ledger that may give them the break they need, but it’s encoded and the guy that wrote it is heavily guarded… I’ll leave it there or I may say too much.
All the performance are excellent, I think Sean Connery got an Oscar for his portrayal of Malone. I thought Robert De Niro was particularly good as Capone and Kevin Costner did a very decent job as Ness. I hadn’t realised that the score was written by Ennio Morricone, and now I know that I also know why I like it so much. The film itself is very well made with some quite memorable set pieces and some nicely phrased dialogue. It’s quite an adventure although I’m not entirely sure about its historical accuracy. As a piece of entertainment though, it does a very good job and I found it well worth a viewing.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.0/10
IMDb Score: 8.0/10 (based on 134,834 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: No data: (Based on 0 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 63/100 ‘Want to See’ (based on 189,416 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
Title Card: 1930. Prohibition has transformed Chicago into a City at War. Rival gangs compete for control of the city's billion dollar empire of illegal alcohol, enforcing their will with the hand grenade and tommy gun. It is the time of the Ganglords. It is the time of Al Capone.
Reporter: [to Al Capone] An article, which I believe appeared in a newspaper, asked why, since you are, or it would seem that you are, in effect, the mayor of Chicago, you've not simply been appointed to that position.
Malone: 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?
Ness: Anything within the law.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.
Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.
Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.
[jabs Ness with his hand, and Ness shakes it]
Malone: Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?
Malone: Good, 'cause you just took one.
Capone: A man becomes preeminent; he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms, enthusiasms... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork... Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins.
Mountie Captain: I do not approve of your methods!
Ness: Yeah, well... You're not from Chicago.
Capone: I want you to get this fuck where he breathes! I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!
Scoop: Word is they're going to repeal Prohibition. What'll you do then?
Ness: I think I'll have a drink.