Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)



Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this movie is that, although it is an epic crime film, the criminal is not an anti-hero figure, but he is a piteous monster that we must despise, whereas the cops are the ones we gotta love. This is something that crime drama epics hadn’t done in a longer time then one would think, and the only one that comes to my mind is Sidney Lumet’s Serpico, although one might argue whether you can compare the two movies anyways. It is also another kind of crime epic, because the pacing of this film makes it very entertaining, it would be very wrong to call it anything but. In fact, apart from the crime drama, the film picks up the same tactics that would have been traditionally udes in a wester to make the four known as the Untouchables look like the heroic figures that De Palma wants them to be. In one particular scene, as they stop the second shipping, De Palma actually gets a shot of the four of them riding side by side on horses.

The Untouchables in fact is the story of how Al Capone was turned in for tax evasion by a group of lawmen called The Untouchables. Make no mistake about it, Al Capone is the bad guy, and we know that right from the start before we are even introduced the the good guy Kevin Costner, when one of Al Capone’s men blows up a corner store and kills a cute little girl in the process, and when you kill a cute little girl, an audience does not forgive you and forget you easily, most of them wil want to see you rot in hell (or jail). Unfortunately, one of the disappointments of the film is De Niro’s performance, and I don’t say that often. He exaggerates and makes Al Capone look like a sort of a charicature, a fool, but is ultimately unable to find an identity for the character of Al Capone and ends up playing as strange surrogate version of all the characters he has ever played. However, Sean Connery’s performance steals the show as the tough experienced Irish cop that finally gave him his academy award. He also gets one of the best death scenes, if not all time, of the eighties certainly.

I haven’t praised De Palma yet because I’m not sure he is worthy of praise. In fact, you can almost feel that the movie could have been fantastic had De Palma’s direction not been so distracting. I used the word before in this review. That is what gets in the way of this movie becomeing one of the crime greats, together with movies like The Godfather of Once Upon a Time in America; De Palma almost makes every shot seem epic, to the point that it starts looking cheesy. The much praised Odessa sequence is a wonderful work of cinematography, but does it fit in with the pace of the movie or is it a bit too much to have? Unfortunately, I believe it is a bit too much. Brian De Palma here is suffering from a narcissistic sydrome that gets to all great directors every now and again, when they become sucked into their own particular style and make the movie some sort of overdone manifesto of their technical and artistic ways. That is what makes the movie seem overdone, and in the same way, that is what makes De Niro’s performance overdone, both artists almost making the same mistakes in their relative fields.

It still is a movie worthy of praise. There is a great atmosphere to it for the atmosphere of the prohibition years that it builds. Wonderful work of the production design that builds a great aura. The pace and rhythm of the film makes this very entertaining, and the plot pretty easy to follow, as sometimes, crime dramas may have hard ones to understand. This makes it enjoyable, I guess, for a wider audience than others.

WATCH FOR THE MOMENT – Sean Connery’s death is pretty amazing.

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