Movie #121 2020: The Untouchables (1987)

Here’s the deal. I’m obsessed with Robert de Niro and I’m obsessed with Al Pacino, and I feel bad for neglecting them so much.

Prior to this, I’d only seen The Godfather trilogy, Taxi Driver, Insomnia, The Irishman, Joker, and a few others. Between them they have over 180 acting credits, so I think we can agree that that’s not enough. So you’ll have to excuse me for wanting to catch up, because there’s going to be a lot more of their movies here starring two particularly talented Italian Americans.

In The Untouchables, De Niro plays notorious gangster Al Capone, whom the title characters are attempting to take down during the prohibition era. Despite playing such a prominent historical figure, De Niro actually takes a backseat in this movie (whilst still being absolutely excellent, of course), and the federal agents who are on his tail are actually the main characters.

Led by the ever handsome, ever stoic Kevin Costner, the cast is brilliant. The late Billy Drago is perfectly evil and sinister as one of the main villains, and I’ll never forgive him for what he does in this movie (the elevator scene!!!). But that’s the sign of a great villain, isn’t it? When an actor – who is probably the world’s nicest guy in real life – forces you to hate them so extensively that you feel that hatred right down to his bones. He’s truly a terrific villain.

I won’t lie to you, I’m probably a bit biased when it comes to movies of this ilk. I’ve been obsessed with this type of mobster shit ever since I watched The Sopranos from start to finish 8 years ago, so this is right up my street. But somehow this is my first Brian De Palma film, and I have to say, he does a pretty stellar job at directing, even if I have that opinion because the topic of the movie does lean into my interests in a big way.

I’m unsure whether or not the soundtrack is intentionally corny and spoof-ish, but it kind of took away from the drama for me either way. The music almost reacts to the actors on-screen, and it just seems a little out of place. However, the rest of The Untouchables is extremely well arranged and put together, so that’s just a minor chink in its armour.

What I appreciated a lot here was that this could have easily been one of those 3.5 hour sagas, but De Palma covers so much ground in just two hours. It is such a relief to see a movie that is well-paced enough that the director and its writer are able to put together a comprehensive story that doesn’t needlessly last an extra hour and a half because they felt the need to include a lot of pointless fodder. It is well edited, and lasts just the right amount of time.

I won’t lie and say that this is as good as your classic mob movie. I mean, it’s no Goodfellas or The Godfather, but it is still a pretty great film for one that is based on a real story.

The Untouchables is available to stream on Sky Cinema and NowTV in the UK.

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