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Film Review: The Untouchables

Updated on December 21, 2016

Background

In 1987, Brian De Palma released The Untouchables, based on the 1957 book of the same name written by Oscar Fraley and Elliot Ness. Starring Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Patricia Clarkson, Andy Garcia, and Billy Drago, the film grossed $106.2 at the box office.

Synopsis

Based on the exploits of Chicago Prohibition agent, Eliot Ness and his group of loyal agents known as the Untouchables, the film follows the group as they pursue bootlegger and gangster Al Capone.

Review

Incredibly well-made, The Untouchables is quite an enjoyable film, especially with its good characters. The team the film is named after is a group whose only similarity is that they’re all lawmen with Ness as the straight and narrow cop who eventually breaks his own rules to bring his man in, Malone as the weathered cop who knows that sometimes breaking rules is necessary to do the right thing, Stone as the hot-tempered, yet crack-shot rookie and Oscar as the smart guy who can still hold is own with a weapon. As for the villains, Al Capone is just as memorable as his right hand man, Frank Nitti. Both of them have no compunctions against anything whatsoever and the latter will kill anyone he’s ordered to and bomb any place that he’s told, even if there are children inside the establishments. Notably, Capone is usually seen as being relatively calm, collected and smooth, even when he's about to kill someone. However, it's fascinating to see just how much Ness gets under his skin, especially when he's seen flying into a rage and ordering Ness' family killed after the Canadian raid.

The story is very interesting as well, showing how far one man will go in his quest to bring in one of the most notorious and wanted criminals to have ever lived. Ness starts out as the perfect cop, never accepting bribes and following the letter of the law by the book. As the film goes on though, he does continue his policy of never accepting bribes, but he starts to use more questionable means to get the job done. At one point, becomes clear to Ness that sometimes he may have to use deception to get the information he needs, something he learned when Malone fooled a man into thinking he shot his partner when he wouldn’t talk when the man was already dead. Eventually Ness ends up with only slivers of the idealism he started out with, killing Frank Nitti in cold blood for boasting about killing Malone. Yet, even then it proves that Malone was right in asking what he’s prepared to do because in order to do all he did. He couldn’t have gone completely by the book, but had to escalate the conflict because that’s what Capone would have done. It's fascinating to see the development of a man who starts out so idealistic that he can bring his target to justice through honorable means, but eventually comes to see that the villains can and will exploit his idealism as much as possible, making it so that he has to compromise in order to both stay alive and complete his goal in an escalating conflict.

4 stars for The Untouchables

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

Awards won

Academy Awards

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sean Connery)

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Sean Connery)

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Score

ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Top Box Office Films

Blue Ribbon Awards

  • Best Foreign Language Film

Grammy Awards

  • Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television

Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon Awards

  • Best Score

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • Second Place - Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)

National Board of Review

  • Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)
  • Top Ten Films

National Society of Film Critics Awards

  • Second Place - Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Second Place - Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)

Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Music, Original Score

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Original Score - Motion Picture

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sean Connery)
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Production Design

ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Top Box Office Films

Awards of the Japanese Academy

  • Best Foreign Language Film

Cesar Awards

  • Best Foreign Film

David di Donatello Awards

  • Best Foreign Producer

Writers Guild of America Awards

  • Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium

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