Saturday, August 1, 2015

770. The Untouchables (1987)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Written By: David Mamet, from novels by Oscar Fraley, Eliot Ness, Paul Robsky
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith
Click here to view the trailer


With the watching of The Untouchables, I now only have sixty movies left to watch for THE BOOK. The game plan that I laid out in my head this morning was twenty a month, for the next three months, starting today, August 1. I'm not sure how well that plan will go, since I haven't watched twenty BOOK movies in one month for a long time, but it's worth a try and if all goes well, I'll wrap this up by Halloween. Anyway...The Untouchables...

The film takes place in Prohibition Era Chicago and is your classic good guys vs. bad guys story. On the bad guys side - Al Capone (De Niro) and his merry band of misfits, all with the goal of bringing illegal booze to dry Chicagoans, even if it means getting their hands bloody. Enter Eliot Ness (Costner), a treasury agent bent on catching Capone and putting him behind bars, including as many of his henchmen as possible. However, that won't be easy, since Al Capone has been greasing the palms of some of Chicago's highest officials, including judges and policemen. Ness finds out quick that if he wants to get to Capone, he'll need to get together a group of guys who can't be bribed a.k.a. The Untouchables. Ness first recruits world weary, beat cop Malone (Connery), who preaches the "Chicago Way" of sending one of Capone's men to the morgue for every one of their men he sends to the hospital. Together, the two go to police academy, to get a third man who has yet to taste the bitter pill of corruption. They find George Stone (Garcia), an ace with a pistol and ready to do good. The Untouchables are rounded out by meek accountant Oscar Wallace (Smith), who thinks that if enough evidence is rounded up, they can convict Capone of tax evasion. The battle sways back and forth in the streets of 1930s era Chicago and even spills across the border, into Canada, for a little taste of old West action, in a film that's beautifully scored by Ennio Morricone and masterfully directed by De Palma.

I now present the ratings of the last five movies I've watched for THE BOOK:


So yeah, one '7' but that was Zhivago and it was a light '7', not necessarily a strong one and most of THAT '7' was for technical things, like the cinematography and not particularly for the plot, which is usually what I'd prefer to give a '7' out for. Therefore, I needed SOMETHING to give me a little POP. With only sixty one movies remaining, I went with The Untouchables, one I'd seen twice before and remembered liking, for the most part. I'd actually go so far as to say I liked it best this time around (only rating it around the '6' mark last time), meaning this was just what the doctor ordered for my slump.

I thought this was really great and had all the qualities of a film that I wouldn't mind watching again and again. Shall we start with the fantastic score of Morricone? What is it about that guy that makes me feel a little deeper, take a little bit more notice of what's playing out in front of me? His sounds almost always give me chills and there's always some sort of TWINGE in his symphonies that take me back to his scores for Leone and remind me of some of the best times to come out of THE BOOK. I loved how we were treated to two distinct scores for the bad guys and the good guys. Capone's theme was magnificent, my favorite piece from the whole film and somehow seemed to perfectly spell out that doom was on the horizon. The good guys theme was just the opposite, reassuring enough to put the notes of that ominous trombone riff out of our minds for a little while. I'm not sure this film would be near as good without the score from Morricone and I'm glad we never had to find out. It's the reason why Morricone is easily my favorite of all film composers, because I've never before recognized the music of a single composer, the way I can recognize Morricone's. At times, it even outshines the script, the cast...

The cast was fine here, by the way. I know I mentioned before that I can't normally stand Costner, but I could take him here, surrounded by Connery and De Niro. I do wish Robert De Niro's part had been a bit larger though. It seemed that he wasn't much more than a supporting character, just showing up long enough to show us what these Untouchables were fighting for and then disappearing again. The scene after the opening scene, where we first meet Capone is great - as De Palma initiates a great tracking shot, taking us right to Capone's bed side. Side note here, when my wife and I were in Philadelphia, back in May, we actually did a tour of the prison where Capone was held - Eastern State Penitentiary. He was only held there for about nine months, but it was still pretty cool to be where such a notorious gangster was once held.

All in all, this was a really good night at the movies for me and an easy recommendation. Great score, great cast, great story and a slice of of old Chicago, a slice of the 30s and a slice of a bygone era. Sometimes it's played a little TOO hokey, but I think that works mostly. At times, it almost comes off like a parody of old gangster films, but then something happens and it reignites it's own originality. The ode to the Odessa steps sequence from The Battleship Potemkin would be the scene to keep your eyes peeled for and like I said, with that Morricone score, your ears need to be permanently peeled.

RATING: 8.5/10  Finally something to write home about! Add this to The Decalogue, Rocco and His Brothers, The Godfather, Singin in the Rain, Last Tango in Paris and The Deer Hunter as the front runners for this current crop.


August 1, 2015  3:07pm


  1. One ofthose boring 'I pretty much agree' replies. Maye not 8.5.. but who's going to argue a point either way. Keeps you entertained...

    1. Although not as conversationally stimulating, it's always good to agree!


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