After two box office failures director Brian De Palma needed a hit. In 1987 a hit he had with The Untouchables. 1930 saw America in the grip of Prohibition. Alcohol was seen as the cause to the rising violence and moral corruption of the American public and so the Volstead Act was passed banning the sale of alcohol. Criminal’s built empires on bootlegging and selling illegal booze, the most famous being Al Capone.
The Untouchables tells a heavily fictionalised account of how a small force of law enforcement agents brought down Capone. Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is tasked with bringing America’s charismatic and notorious Capone (Robert De Niro) to justice. Despite his best efforts, Capone is always one step ahead of Ness. That is until Ness happens upon Malone (Sean Connery), a world-weary Irish beat cop. Together they enlist rookie cop George Stone (Andy Garcia) and government accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith). Malone teaches Ness that the only way to get Capone is to abandon the rule book, “You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls 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. That’s how you get Capone.”
David Mamet’s screenplay is brimming with great dialogue and action sequences, but not to the detriment of the simply heart breaking scenes that occur. Mamet was not a fan of the original TV series, nor was De Palma, so The Untouchables is very much its own beast. Eliot Ness was supposedly a rather quiet and unassuming person. Costner takes the name of Ness, but creates a character far removed from the real man. Although he is naïve to begin with, he soon becomes a righteous force to be reckoned with.
Originally, Bob Hoskins was to portray Capone, and as good an actor as he was, it’s difficult to imagine anyone but De Niro as the crime lord. Capone saw himself as a Robin Hood type. The people wanted booze and he provided it for them. That’s exactly how De Niro plays him. He’s just “responding to the will of the people.” That’s when he’s not taking a baseball bat to someone’s head. Sean Connery’s Malone is the heart of the film, a cynical heart, but a heart, nonetheless. He guides Ness to the path he needs to follow in order for him to bring Capone down.
The Untouchables in 4K is a feast for the eyes. The smallest of detail in the clothing is visible, the puddles on the rain-soaked streets look as though they could flow into your room, you can almost smell the gun oil and contraband whisky.
The extras are interesting, if not ground-breaking. They have clearly been ported over from the DVD and Blu-ray releases. In The Script, The Cast De Palma states that he approached the making of The Untouchables as a John Ford western rather than a crime picture, and the cast wax lyrical about the making of the film. Production Stories explains the pain-staking efforts in recreating 1930 Chicago, the Canadian border bridge sequence is dissected, and De Palma explains how Battleship Potemkin was the inspiration for the railway station steps sequence. Re-Inventing The Genre features De Palma discussing Ennio Morricone’s, with more behind the scenes stories. The Classic tells of Giorgio Armani’s involvement in designing the costumes and the overall look of the film. Finally, there’s the original featurette: The Men, which is a much shorter version of all the other features, but with the classic trailer voice over from the 80’s.
The Untouchables is two hours of solid entertainment. It’s perhaps De Palma’s least De Palma type film although it does have with the usual De Palma touches. The creeper scene and the slow motion shoot out, but so much blood.