The prohibition era of American history is something I find truly interesting. The banning of alcohol would probably permanently cripple me, but for a good few years in the United States, such a thing happened. Gangsters up and down the country made millions in the illegal trade of champagne, rum, booze production and peddling. The Untouchables looks to profile an overarching story of how a select few officers of the law were tasked with upholding the liquor ban, and the various methods they took to arresting those responsible. Brian De Palma’s late 80s-piece pools together a great cast of characters in a film deeply set in its 20th century setting.
It still surprises me that, for nearly a decade, Kevin Costner found himself out of the public eye almost entirely. Costner’s leading performance as Elliot Ness is a typical typecast role for the actor, a strong leading piece that isn’t without its meaningful moments. More often than not, he feels rather frivolous, a step in the wrong direction in this case considering it feels rather generic and uneventful. He’s a man that finds himself in these situations side by side with characters that are far more interesting. Sean Connery is a spotlight stealer throughout this one, dominating just about every scene he comes across. It’s a spectacular performance, well worth the acclaim he received for playing an older police officer who knows the streets like the back of his hand.
The Untouchables is extremely conventional and predictable in how it frames its performances and actors. Connery’s stint as the older, experienced copper brushes shoulders with the straight man lead (Costner), the nerdy, out of place man stepping up to the plate, and the tough as nails, egotistical recruit (Andy Garcia). A formidable pairing that brings some great scenes together, but its run-of-the-mill character building, a beginner’s guide to how every drama puts together a setlist of likeable protagonists.
With Robert De Niro pulling the strings in the few scenes he steals; we receive a resounding portrayal of Capone. The fourth and currently latest pairing between De Niro and De Palma, The Untouchables brings out the best in this small role. Painted as a ruthless, no-nonsense killer, De Niro brings his a-game to a role that provides the foundation to many of the larger characters. Their drive is stopping Capone, a goal that feels like it’s right at the core of the film, but undermined somewhat by some shallow attempts at setting up meandering supporting performances.
As much a tale of bootlegging and prohibition as it is of corruption within positions of power, how easily they’re swayed by personal interests, money, and more. Some things never change. The Untouchables is a thoroughly engaging piece from start to finish, never a dull moment on hand throughout. It’s far too predictable to become anything incredible, but De Palma and his impressive cast pull together to bring a feverishly fun time. Solid set pieces, expectedly bloody and all the right moments from De Palma make for a thoroughly engaging time.