1987 in Film – The Untouchables

Release Date: June 3rd
Box Office: $76,270,454

Isn’t it great when someone who was suffering hard times gets back on their feet? Someone who really was at the bottom but, as Sinatra said, found themselves king of the hill, head of the list, cream of the crop.

And when it happens with two guys at once? Good Lord.

So it was that Brian DePalma and Sean Connery came together in The Untouchables (1987).

DePalma was in need of a hit after a rough couple of years: Body Double (1984) had received an absolute pasting at both the box office and with the critics. Wise Guys (1986) wasn’t exactly the film to turn things around, which meant that De Palma needed a hit as soon as possible.

So a remake of the popular TV series The Untouchables seemed to be a good idea.

And it was. First of all, it’s a great story based on Prohibition Era Chicago with the straight laced cop Elliott Ness looking to take down king of the gangsters Al Capone. David Mamet wrote the script and a great one it was too.

Kevin Costner, in a break out role, is excellently cast as Ness. He was almost born to play the character, both as American as apple pie. He gets across the moral certainty of the Ness, this untouchable policeman in a city drowning in corruption.

He still needs some help though, which he gets in the shape of Sean Connery. If The Untouchables is Costner cementing his leading man status then it is also Connery cementing his place as the go to man if you need a mentor.

If Costner’s Ness is almost pure idealism, Connery’s Jimmy Malone is almost pure realism. A street cop who is getting too old for the streets he’s still pounding, he’s been there and seen it all. Connery cuts just the right amount of cynicism to see through Ness’ crusade against the gangsters. He knows the methods that will need to be used are almost beyond a man like Ness, something that is captured perfectly in his “Chicago Way” speech.

Whilst the film has this depth to it, it certainly doesn’t forget to be a crowd pleaser. It has plenty of action, more than it’s fair share of violence and a bit of stunt casting as well with Robert De Niro popping up as Capone himself.

This meant that the film cleaned up at the box office, despite the good to average reviews. It also delivered an Oscar for Connery, maybe not for this film and more of an “it’s about time” award but it still gives The Untouchables a bit more prestige that it deserves.

So the film ended up getting De Palma and Connery back on their feet. Of course, De Palma would only have a couple more years before another box office disaster but that’s not the point.

The point is he made a big budget Hollywood film that ended with a gun fight that was a giant cinematic homage to the Russian silent film Battleship Potemkin (1925) staring James Bond. You can’t argue with that.

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