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The Untouchables

The Untouchables
(1987) - Directed by Brian De Palma
Cop / Crime / Historical Drama
"I want to get Capone. I don't know how to do it."

I've been very slow in my De Palma exploration, and I need to get through a few more before I really consider myself educated in his works. Because of two noir games currently on the forums, I've been in a crime mood, and I really wanted to get De Palma's Untouchables out of the way before it was taken off of Prime. Also having discovered the pilot to Lackadaisy, I suddenly grew curious about Prohibition, and decided it was for my good to watch this movie at all educational angles be them historically or cinematically.

The Untouchables recounts the story of treasury agent Eliot Ness who's been given the job of taking down Prohibition mob boss Al Capone. But a couple screw ups prove that he can't do it alone. He hires a ragtag crew from within the police force who work together to try and bring Capone to justice, but also find themselves on the fine line of what the law upholds and how criminal you'd have to go to get your way.

Lemme get my first and foremost focus out of the way: characterization. It was pretty good. It was easy to get behind the characters when they had the screentime to allow for it, especially where Costner's Ness and Connery's Malone were involved. As two differing cops with the same goals, they really brought some beautiful onscreen presence, slightly making up for the fact that Costner is no Connery and the obvious Scottish in Connery's accent despite his Irish part. But the real trouble, and maybe the only real trouble, is the fact that 80% of the plotting goes to Connery and Costner when we get so little Robert De Niro as Al Capone, which is an INCREDIBLE shame because he nails his role without trying. There seriously needed to be more Capone here.

Now for the rest: perfect. At the opening credits we get a very uniue Ennio Morricone intro with seemingly experimental timing. The score switches the vibes and thmes up between the noirish, the classical, the soaring, the mysterious and even the smoothness and jazz. I really loved how far Morricone was willing to go with this score, and it captures every atmospheric angle of the movie.

But the real star of The Untouchables is the plotting. Right from the getgo it makes a point of sucking you into the early 30's crime world. There are a couple of real shockers among the procedural scenes, too. I mean, that opening is enough to just punch you in the gut. Constanlt ywe find a new angle and a new plot device to work with, and things typically take a turn for the more thrilling, not the more dramatic. Through the plotting, De Palma shows off his camera work and direction at some of its absolutel finest, or at least the finest I've been explosed to concerning De Palma's direction. He knows how to direct a scene with perfect flair and never once sacrifices the story or plotting in his efforts to be a visual artist.

Almost perfect and beautifully fleshed out, Untouchables is almost everything I hope for in a great movie. I'd buy this DVD. This is a wonderfully-written crime tale with excellent casting and top-notch direction. De Palma was one of the earliest crime directors of the New Hollywood scene, and he made it perfectly clear with movies like this and Carlito's Way that this is his specialty.

= 96

Brian De Palma's Directorial Score (7 Good vs. 0 Bad)

Carlito's Way: 100
Carrie: 98
The Untouchables: 96
Scarface: 92
Mission: Impossible: 81

Average Score: 93.4 / 5

Brian De Palma's position on my Top Directors List raises from 82 to 38 between Michael Curtiz and Robert Zemeckis. This also eliminates all 6/10 films from his top 5. To achieve a five-star rating, De palma needs a film scoring 89/100 or higher.