The Untouchables is a 1987 crime drama film based on the 1959 television series, and follows Eliot Ness's autobiographical account of his efforts to bring gangster Al Capone to justice during the Prohibition era. It was directed by Brian De Palma and adapted by David Mamet, and stars Kevin Costner as Ness, Sean Connery as Irish-American beat cop Jim Malone, and Robert De Niro as Capone. Connery received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film. The Untouchables became a solid hit, grossing over $76 million domestically. A computer game based on the film was released in 1989 on ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, Amiga and later on NES, SNES. A prequel, The Untouchables: Capone Rising, is currently in production. Directed by Brian De Palma, the film's plot details the story of Al Capone's rise to power.



Prohibition in the United States has led to an organized crime wave in the 1920s and early 1930s. Various gangs bootleg vast amounts of alcohol and control their businesses with violence and extortion. The problem is most serious in Chicago, where gang leader Al Capone (Robert De Niro) has almost the whole city (even the Mayor of Chicago) under his control, and supplies poor-quality liquor at high prices. Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is put in charge of leading the crusade against Capone and his empire. Ness's initial strategy is to conduct raids using a large squad of uniformed officers, but his first attempt fails when one or more corrupt officers tip off Capone's men about the plan. Embarrassed over the fiasco and seeking ideas for a change of tactics, Ness has a chance encounter with Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), an incorruptible Irish beat cop from Scotland who understands the way Capone does business, and decides to ask for his help. Malone urges Ness to become as ruthless as the gangsters he wants to take down: "He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone." With corruption running rampant throughout the Chicago police force, Malone suggests that Ness recruit directly from the police academy in order to find team members who have not yet had a chance to come under Capone's influence. Italian-American trainee George Stone, formerly Giuseppe Petri (Andy García), is enlisted for his superior marksmanship and calm reactions under pressure. Joined by Treasury accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), detailed to Chicago from Washington, Ness has built an incorruptible team, capable of combating Capone. Their first raid takes place in a local post office whose storeroom is used to house Capone's illegal liquor. Malone and most of the police know where the alcohol is, but they leave it alone because no one wants to provoke Capone and his gang. The raid succeeds without incident, though Capone later kills the man who had been in charge of the storeroom with a baseball bat. As the four pick up steam and become noted by the press, Wallace begins to probe the finances of the Capone organization. He believes that a feasible method of prosecution is through a tax evasion charge, if nothing else. At one point, Ness is visited by a Chicago alderman who is also under Capone's control. The alderman tries to bribe Ness into dropping the investigation, but Ness angrily rejects the offer and throws him out in full view of the team. As he leaves, he mockingly refers to them as "untouchable" and says that Capone, who is known as a cop-killer, can get to anyone he chooses, one way or another. The alderman's words prove to be true when Capone's chief hit man, Frank Nitti (Billy Drago), makes veiled threats toward Ness and his family outside his house, and drives off before Ness can capture him. Realizing that Capone has targeted him, Ness orders his wife and daughter moved to a safer place; Malone and Stone then bring word of a large whiskey shipment coming in from Canada, and the team flies north to set up a raid at the border. During the raid, Ness's team and a squad of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers intercept the shipment, arresting or killing everyone involved. Malone captures one of Capone’s bookkeepers, George (Brad Sullivan), and the team tries to persuade him to provide evidence against Capone. George initially refuses to cooperate, even after Malone assaults him. However, he changes his mind once Malone shoots a thug (who was actually already dead) in the mouth to frighten him. Enraged even further, Capone orders his men to hunt down and kill Ness (even Ness' family), knowing that with Ness dead, the Untouchables will be finished. Ness's wife, meanwhile, has just given birth to their second child. At the police station, where the Untouchables are being congratulated, Wallace prepares to escort George into protective custody. However, they are both shot and killed by Nitti, disguised as the policeman operating the elevator; when the bodies are found, the word "TOUCHABLE" has been written on the wall in their blood. Ness is left with insufficient evidence to press charges, and the frustration drives him into challenging Capone in public to a physical fight in front of his son and several armed henchmen. Malone intervenes and forces Ness to back down, defusing the confrontation. Malone tells Ness to stall the district attorney from dropping the case while he searches for information regarding Walter Payne, another of Capone's bookkeepers. A subpoena is issued for Payne, prompting Capone's men to make plans to get him out of town. After a brutal fistfight with Mike Dorsett, the corrupt police chief who sold out Wallace and George, Malone learns of the intended escape. Returning home and calling Ness to arrange a meeting, Malone is stalked by a knife-wielding thug, but quickly drives him out the back door at gunpoint. The stalker proves to have been bait for an ambush by Nitti, who shoots Malone repeatedly with a tommy gun. He is barely alive when Ness and Stone find him, and he shows Ness which train Payne will be taking before dying in his arms. Ness and Stone arrive at Union Station and find Payne guarded by several gangsters. After a fierce shootout (an homage to the famous Odessa Steps scene from The Battleship Potemkin), the two succeed in killing all of the other gangsters and taking Payne alive. Payne testifies in court against Capone, admitting his role in channeling money to Capone over the last three years. Ness, however, notices Capone relaxed and even smiling, despite the probability of serving a long prison sentence, and also sees Nitti carrying a gun in court. He takes Nitti out of the courtroom with the bailiff and discovers that Nitti has permission from the corrupt mayor of Chicago to carry the weapon. Ness then identifies Nitti as Malone’s murderer after finding Malone's address on a matchbook in Nitti's pocket. Panicking, Nitti shoots the bailiff and runs up to the roof, exchanging gunfire with Ness all the way. Eventually, Ness gets Nitti in his sights, but cannot bring himself to shoot the man in cold blood. Nitti gives himself up to Ness, stating that Malone died "screaming like a stuck Irish pig" and that Ness should think about that when he, Nitti, is tried and convicted for the murder but set free anyway. Enraged at the thought that Nitti will escape punishment for his crimes, and provoked to revenge, Ness pushes Nitti off the roof. He shouts to the screaming thug, "Did he sound anything like that?" before Nitti dies on impact with a parked car. Back inside the courthouse, Stone shows Ness a document from Nitti’s jacket that shows bribes paid to the jurors, explaining Capone's relaxed mood. The judge has no intention of using it as evidence and is fully prepared to let Capone go free, inadvertently revealing his own corruption or fear of the crime boss. In a last ditch effort, Ness talks the judge into doing the right thing, bluffing him into believing that the judge's name is among those in the bookkeeper's ledger of payoffs. As a result, the judge decides to switch this jury with the one in another courtroom. Before the trial can continue, Capone's lawyer changes the plea of "not guilty" to one of "guilty" without Capone's consent. Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison. Although it is literally Capone's own lawyer who puts Capone behind bars, Ness receives all of the credit. Ness taunts Capone, who pretends not to hear as he is taken into custody. As he packs up his office, Ness contemplates the Saint Jude medallion that Malone had carried with him for many years (linked to his call box key), and which Malone had given to him before dying. Ness gives the medallion to Stone, reasoning that since Jude is the patron saint of police officers, Malone would have wanted him to have it. Out on the street, a reporter wishes to have a word from the man who (helped) put Capone away, but Ness modestly downplays his role in the showdown. When the reporter mentions that Prohibition is due to be repealed and asks what Ness might do then, Ness responds, "I think I'll have a drink."


The media reported that the producers wanted Sean Connery for the movie but could not afford his salary, so he agreed to do the movie for $50,000 with a 10 percent share of the proceeds. The expectation was that the movie would not make much money, so the producers agreed to it. However, it exceeded all expectations and Sean Connery reaped a large amount of money. It was one of the most publicized times that an actor had benefited so greatly from having "bet" on the future of the movie and since then other actors have parlayed their acting skills into taking less up front for a part of the proceeds. The Untouchables was filmed in Chicago, Illinois; Hardin, Montana; and the surrounding areas of Great Falls, Montana. According to Brian De Palma, Robert De Niro and Bob Hoskins were the prime candidates for the role of Al Capone, and Hoskins, for his brief collaboration after De Niro declined but before he changed his mind, was sent a $500,000 cheque by De Palma. De Niro prepared so thoroughly for the role, that he even wore underwear from that period, even though it would never be seen throughout the movie. Hoskins, meanwhile, later sent a "Thank You" note to De Palma and jokingly asked him if there were any more films he didn't want him to appear in.

Box OfficeEdit

The Untouchables opened on June 5, 1987 in 1,012 theaters where it grossed USD $10 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $76.2 million in North America. The film has received a mostly positive reception from critics and has an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Vincent Canby, of The New York Times, gave the movie a glowing review, calling it "a smashing work" and saying it was "vulgar, violent, funny and sometimes breathtakingly beautiful". Roger Ebert, on the other hand, said, "The Untouchables has great costumes, great sets, great cars, great guns, great locations and a few shots that absolutely capture the Prohibition Era. But it does not have a great script, great performances or great direction". Hal Hinson, in his review for the Washington Post, criticized De Palma's direction: "And somehow we're put off here by the spectacular stuff he throws up onto the screen. De Palma's storytelling instincts have given way completely to his interest in film as a visual medium. His only real concern is his own style" Many reviewers reserved the most praise for De Niro and Connery's charismatic performances. Connery, however, won first place in an Empire magazine poll for worst film accent. Pauline Kael called it "a great audience movie--a wonderful potboiler.

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