The Untouchables arrives on 4K Ultra HD just in time to celebrate the gangster drama’s 35th anniversary at the end of the week.
This film takes us back to Prohibition era Chicago when Al Capone (Robert De Niro) ruled the day. During this era, Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) led his famous Untouchables team in taking down Capone. Ness is assisted in his efforts by Irish cop Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), account Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), and marksman George Stone (Andy Garcia). After raiding a Capone liquor cache, the press soon dubs Ness’s team as “The Untouchables” and the legend would only grow from there. I’m not going to really dive into the plot here because the film is basically The Untouchables vs. Al Capone. The things that follow either happened in real life or were created just for the film. That’s really all you need to know!
While the film is based on history, it’s not a historically accurate film. If you want to know the real story, this is where you need to read the book. I have to think long and hard with regards to how I feel about the film because of this. Films can certainly take dramatic liberties but David Mamet’s script takes too many liberties and the film starts to build a myth instead of the truth. Take Charles Martin Smith’s character, Oscar Wallace, for instance. He is based on Frank J. Wilson, who was not killed in real life unlike the Wallace character in the film. For more on the inaccuracies, just click here.
Brian De Palma brings his own visual style to his direction. There’s a high production value that comes to the film’s craftmanship. He even has a sequence on the bridge where the film pays homage to Oscar-winning filmmaker John Ford. It’s certainly a way to bridge two different eras of filmmaking. This is never more true than watching the Canadian border crossing sequence. What could have been a simple scene is now a complex scene but such beautiful filmmaking. Even though it’s a gangster drama in the 1930s, it’s almost like you’re out in the Old West. Truth be told, they were because the fictional Canadian border raid is really taking place where the Hardy Bridge crosses the Missouri River in Montana, southwest of Great Falls.
One thing I do like is that the filmmakers use as many Chicago locations as possible in terms of authenticity. Sometimes, building sets do not make up for using the real thing. It isn’t enough to overcome too many dramatic liberties to history. The other thing that’s challenging is here is watching Sean Connery play Irish cop Jimmy Malone. Connery won an Oscar for the role but his Scottish accent still feels too heavy side when speaking. It makes me wonder just what the hell Academy voters were thinking against the likes of Albert Brooks, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, to name a few. But for what it’s worth, the film reinvents the gangster drama, which is weird for a film coming out a few years following the Scarface remake.
While Connery earns his only Oscar win for the film, there are three other nominations: Art Design, Costume Design, and Original Score. All three of these below-the-line nominations are worthy. For one, it’s a period film. Two, the production utilizes the aforementioned Chicago locations as well as the Montana bridge. Three, the film has legendary composer Ennio Morricone scoring the film. Morricone’s score elevates the picture. Surprisingly, the late composer would not win a competitive Oscar until Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
Arriving on 4K UHD for the first time, the film includes a digital copy and over an hour of legacy bonus features. The bonus features add more insight into the film’s production–documentary filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau’s work is superb as usual. Case in point: filmmaker Brian De Palma had some concerns going into the film because his two previous films were not a financial success. Ultimately, this film earned just over $100 million against a $25 million budget. In doing so, The Untouchables became the fourth-highest grossing film of 1987.
Even though David Mamet’s script takes a few too many historical liberties for my tastes, The Untouchables reinvents the genre.
- The Script, The Cast
- Production Stories
- Re-Inventing the Genre
- The Classic
- Original Featurette: “The Men”
- Theatrical Trailer
DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma
SCREENWRITERS: David Mamet
CAST: Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery
Paramount released The Untouchables in theaters on June 3, 1987. Grade: 4/5
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