Review: The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma
Screenwriter: David Mamet
Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro
Genres: Drama, Crime, Thriller
MPAA Rating: Rated R for graphic violence, and moderate profanity and frightening images
Release Dates: 6/3/87 (Theatres); 6/6/14 (Streaming)
Best Line: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Oscars: Won–Supporting Actor (Connery); Nominated–Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score
Where to Watch: Rent/Buy

The Untouchables was already on my seemingly never-ending movie queue, as it was an Oscar winner and multiple nominee, but I recently decided to watch it in honor of Sean Connery, who won for Best Supporting Actor and recently passed away. His performance is not only Oscar-worthy but perhaps among the best Oscar-winning supporting actor performances of all time. It’s hard to describe what makes it so great, aside from the fact that Connery brought his inexplicable Scottish charm to the role of a policeman in Chicago; any time he’s not in a scene, he’s missed. 

Connery’s scenes with Kevin Costner are probably the best in the film, as they appear to be a mismatched duo who is seeking the impossible: to finally nab Al Capone. In his first major lead role, Costner more than holds than own, the success of which may have lead to further leading roles (such as in Field of Dreams). Many of the scenes are much more comical in nature than I had expected, though this is primarily thanks to the half-humorous nature of Connery’s performance. Connery also has gifted us with numerous iconic lines, including the one listed above. 

And, let’s not forget the scene-stealing Robert De Niro portraying yet another mob boss — after his Oscar-winning turn in The Godfather Part II — but this time, it’s incredibly showy and ostentatious, but in the best way. He’s really only in a handful scenes, although he makes such a big impact that, like Connery, his absence is noticeable. That’s not to say that scenes with neither Connery or De Niro are bad; rather, it’s a testament to their performances. There is also strong work from Charles Martin Smith and a dapper Andy Garcia, along with a young Patricia Clarkson, who is basically reduced to the one-note wife but does her best. 

De Palma seems to prefer utilizing stylized filmmaking, which is no more evident than in the scene in the clip above; my dad said it was one of the best scenes in film history. I’m not sure if it quite lives up to that, but it is certainly uniquely shot and filled with tension. There are undoubtedly some events that are historically inaccurate, but were changed or added for dramatic event, which might upset those who prefer fact-based films to stick closer to the truth. And, it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s certainly an entertaining one.