the Thinking Chicks Guide to Movies

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The Untouchables (1987)

Reviewed on 2011 January 19

This is Brian DePalma’s glamorized but still entertaining story of Elliot Ness and his crusade against Al Capone and his gangsters.

In 1930, alcohol is (in theory) hard to find; a gullible press is not. Al Capone (Robert DeNiro, after the make-up department transformed him with some pokes of the ugly stick) charms the press and carves an image of himself as a mere purveyor of something harmless, making things even harder for Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner). An early raid goes wrong, with the press watching no less, and Ness is despondent until he meets a Chicago cop worthy of his drive. Jim Malone (Sean Connery) is the world’s best beat cop, and Ness senses this after talking to the man for five minutes. He wants to work with Malone to assemble a crack team of men dedicated to bringing Capone down. They’d have to be incorruptible, untouchable men to resist political (and more deadly) pressures.

Prohibition was foolish and the real-life Ness was kind of a martinet. That doesn’t change the fact that Capone was a murderous, syphilis-addled goon that needed a smackdown. The dinner party scene is based on a real-life incident. The scene where Malone “interrogates” one of Capone’s men, the scene which is usually clipped from basic cable TV (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen this), is brilliant.

Update, 2011 January 31: Shukti gets schooled.

My friend and fellow divine movie being in Colorado, Ed, felt I didn’t show The Untouchables enough love.

Three morsels!? And no drink!? Come on! This is one of my favorite movies!

For once, Costner was the right choice in the role of clueless-but-trying Ness. The filmmakers did a really good job to peel away the previous efforts to sort-of whitewash the mafia (The Godfather) and show how ruthless they could be. The scene of Capone weeping at the opera while Malone is getting his guts blown out was brilliant. Having him watching Pagliacci was a subtle and nice choice too. Everyone recognizes the aria, but Pagliacci is willing to murder his wife to “avenge his honor,” because “she had it coming.” I’m sure the movie-Capone appreciated that.

Also, it co-starred one of the most cruelly under-utilized actors in Hollywood: Charles Martin Smith. Have you seen Never Cry Wolf? You need to.

Four morsels and a highball made with smuggled Canadian whiskey! (You know I’m right!)

You know what? I concur: four morsels. But sorry, I’m part Scot so it’s gotta be single malt from the Highlands.

Three Four chocolate morsels.

Shukti

morsel morsel morsel morsel

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