CFNN Reporter Alex Benbenek
Often viewed as one of director Brian De Palma’s best films, The Untouchables, follows the downfall of Chicago’s most well-known crime boss, Al Capone. The film, released in 1987, consists of stellar performances by Sir Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Costner. The critically acclaimed film gives viewers an in-depth look at the brutality of Chicago in the 1930s.
The Untouchables follows the special task force that was set up by the U.S State Department to bring down Al Capone (portrayed by Robert De Niro). Elliot Ness, (portrayed by Kevin Costner) is a Federal Prohibition Officer who is sent to Chicago to fulfill federal requests to bring down Capone. At the time, Capone was the most powerful man in all of Chicago. Capone made sure to preserve his power by paying off city officials, judges, and police officers to protect him and his cause. As a result of this, Ness took great care in assembling his special task force to avoid having a corrupt officer or agent on his task force. Eventually, Jimmy Malone, George Stone, and Oscar Wallace were added to the task force.
The task force became an immediate threat to Capone as they began to crack down on those around him. A particular lead, uncovered by Oscar Wallace, revealed that Capone could be brought down for tax evasion if they had concrete proof. As a result of the findings by Wallace, the task force shifted their focus to acquiring evidence and witnesses to bring down Capone on tax evasion charges. The investigation into Capone would prove to be brutal for the task force as members were sold out by the corrupt Chief of Police, Mike Dorsett. This resulted in the deaths of Jimmy Malone and Oscar Wallace as they were both murdered by Capone’s hitman Frank Nitti. Determined to bring Capone down, Ness follows a lead to arrest Capone’s bookkeeper George. In the action-packed scene where George is arrested, Ness and Stone await his arrival at a train station. George was planning to leave town under Capone’s orders to assure his own safety. Ness and Stone confronted George and his security detail which became a shootout. Ness and Stone survived the shootout and proceeded to arrest George. George was then brought to trial and testified against Capone, which brought about Capone’s eviction and removal from his criminal empire.
The Untouchables was nominated for four academy awards and Sir Sean Connery received an Academy Award for best-supporting actor. The star-studded cast made the movie for many. Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote in regards to the film that “The Untouchables is a terrific movie, full of the same brand of fierce vitality that made the 1930s gangster films so compelling.” The portrayal of violence in the film keeps viewers glued to the screen throughout the downfall of Capone. The depiction of violence accurately displays what Chicago was like at the height of Capone’s reign.
A character arc that many critics argue over is that of Elliot Ness. Ness, portrayed by Kevin Costner, was depicted as a character without flaws throughout the entire movie. Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote in regards to Ness that “Where, under his stainless-steel incorruptibility, was Ness’ gnawing flaw? To Mamet and De Palma, goodness and dullness seem inseparable.” Throughout the film, Ness is unflawed and viewed as a perfect man. Other characters on the task force had moments where they became flawed. An example of this is when Jimmy Malone uses illegal tactics when interrogating a suspect midway through the film and Malone’s violent side is revealed.
In all, The Untouchables is a film that does not age. The depiction of Capone and the task force provides viewers with an intriguing storyline that follows the downfall of Al Capone. The critically acclaimed film sports a star-studded cast which features many great performances. The timeless masterpiece directed by Brian de Palma is a must-watch for those who are interested in gangster films.