The Untouchables ★★★

“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull 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!” — Malone

Big, rouble-rousing, unashamedly corny. The Untouchables is broad and showy, known for its expensive retro-design of Prohibition Chicago. Cops and robbers fight dirty, the bootleggers execute dissenters and blow-up businesses, but otherwise – this is an immaculately spick and span city, a vogue metropolis. Kevin Costner is the straight-arrow Eliot Ness; Sean Connery (in a deserved Oscar-winning role) is an Irish-American cop with wiseacre chops; Andy Garcia is a sharpshooter; Charles Martin Smith is a deskman who comes up with the idea to nail gangster Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) for income tax evasion.

The first absurdity is watching Capone speak in hammy soliloquies, some of them not making sense even if you slowed down the movie and read the subtitles. DeNiro plays Capone as a capricious fat cat with minions fetching everything for him. He lives in a hotel that appears to be all his, with no other guests. At the end of a monologue about “Enthusiasms” he takes a baseball bat to the head of one of his subordinates. The script is credited to David Mamet who has written more grown-up stuff; this time, it felt the only time he’s written a script at a junior high school level.

How sensational though are Brian DePalma’s set pieces, like the Union Station staircase sequence with a baby stroller rolling down uncontrollably while men on opposite sides exchange gunfire – this of course inspired from the 1925 Russian film “Battleship Potemkin.” The raid at the Canadian border has its’ gung-ho moments. And Ness chases after Nitti (Billy Dragon) on courthouse rooftops, filmed with DePalma trademark high anxiety camera angles. All of this action stuff is lifted up by Ennio Morricone’s exuberant, swirling score – a perfect match to the hop and flow of DePalma’s visuals. Evermore, it’s a treat to see the piss and vinegar of Connery’s Malone who seemed to have gotten all the best dialogue.

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