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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

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The Untouchables (1987) on IMDb

Plot Overview

It's 1930. Prohibition is in force and Chicago gangs are profiting through illegal trade. Mob boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro), while getting groomed to the hilt, is giving the papers an inter­view. He considers him­self Chicago's "unofficial Mayor" because, says he, “I'm responding to the will of the people”—he provides them booze. He defines his trade as, “I'm a business­man.” To the question of his gangs' use of violence, his answer is, “You can get further with a kind word and a gun than just with a kind word.” He never­the­less denies using violence.

Next we see a gang rep getting turned down for business who politely leaves … and blows the place to smithereens killing a ten-year-old girl in the process. On Sept. 15, 1930 Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) arrives in town and coopts ... Lt. Anderson (Peter Aylward) and “The Flying Squad” to bust a shipment of quality booze from Canada in violation of the Volstead Act. The results, as printed in the “Herald Examiner,” are less than spectacular: "TREASURY AGENT BUSTS OUT."

Ness is despondent over an evident leak in the Department until he meets up with seasoned beat cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery) whom he persuades to, “Just work with me.” They also recruit from the academy crack-shot George Stone (Andy Garcia). To round out their number of “untouchables”, they pick up accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) who has a badge. Together these four will wage an all-out war on Capone and his gang.


The narrative of this particular story is reminiscent of a chapter in the book of, (Job 32:6-7) “And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; where­fore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Elihu was showing deference to the aged, letting them speak first. Sort of like children who should be seen and not heard, but better, say, than a dog who should be neither seen nor heard if you have one as contra­band in your apartment. The rookie deferred to the (experienced) beat cop who in turn deferred to the Federal agent, as it should be.

(Job 32:11-12) “Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, whilst ye searched out what to say. Yea, I attended unto you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words.” The beat cop discovered that the Fed didn't know what he was doing.

(Job 32:17-20) “I said, I will answer also my part, I also will shew mine opinion. For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles. I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer.” The beat cop sets about to instruct the Fed. Like a cask of whiskey shot full of holes in the shoot­out, he spouts off in places. For that matter the rookie was provoked into spouting off at the beat cop:

Malone: Why do you want to join the force?

George Stone: To protect the property and citizenry of ...

Malone: Ah, don't waste my time with that bs. Where you from, Stone?

George Stone: I'm from the South-Side.

Malone: Stone. George Stone. That's your name? What's your real name?

George Stone: That is my real name.

Malone: Nah. What was it before you changed it?

George Stone: Giuseppe Petri.

Malone: Ah, I knew it. That's all you need, one thieving wop on the team.

George Stone: Hey, what's that you say?

Malone: I said that you're a lying member of a no good race.

George Stone: [He cuffs Stone across the face. As he draws back his arm again, Stone presses a gun under his chin] Much better than you, you stinking Irish shit pig.

Malone: Oh, I like him.

Ness: [Ness looking a bit nervous and Malone smiling at Stone] Yeah, I like him too.

In the context of having pulled Stone directly from (the mock hostility of) the shooting range, Malone was taunting him with "fighting words" expected to produce a belligerent response. That's not covered by the free speech doctrine. It's similar to shouting “Fire!” in a theater, not covered on account of the expected panic it would cause. I can cite novelist A.J. Zerries for an example from a busker's act: “The rhythm made it impossible to walk away with­out moving to the beat. Strangers were grinning at one another, half dancing up the subway stairs” (12). There's an unspoken rule for New Yorkers to avert their eyes from strangers in pubic, but it doesn't apply here because of the expected visceral reaction. Another example is the courtesy not to inter­rupt a guest, say, at a dinner party, but when he is holding forth on the graphic details of his recent surgery, one with a queasy stomach might clear his throat “Ahem!” In a roof­top scene with no witnesses, Capone's gunsel should not have provoked Ness either; what did he expect would happen?

(Job 32:21-22) “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.” Ness wasn't going to consider Capone an honorary mayor, nor was he going to be taken in by his grooming and attire.

(Job 33:1-3) “Where­fore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words. Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth. My words shall be of the up­right­ness of my heart: and my lips shall utter know­ledge clearly.” Malone (as did Elihu to Job) gave Ness good advice (“Here endeth the lesson.”)

Production Values

This film, “The Untouchables” (1987) was directed by Brian De Palma. It was written by David Mamet, as suggested by the book, The Untouchables by Oscar Fraley & Eliot Ness. The book was a glorified biography that then morphed into a hit TV series that was further embellished by this movie. We end up a few steps removed from reality. It stars Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, Robert De Niro as gang lord Al Capone, and Sean Connery as cop Malone. Kevin Costner made the film bear­able, and he wasn't even famous at the time. De Niro, Connery, and Garcia were all outstanding. Kudos to Del Close whose crooked Chicago Alderman upstaged them all for a moment.

It was rated R and filmed in Chicago. The real life Ness wasn't quite the happily married family man he appears as in the movie. The wonderful score is courtesy of Ennio Morri­cone and costumes were by Giorgio Armani. The violence is ultra-graphic bordering on gory. The shoot­out at the end cleverly slips in a baby carriage on the stairs à la Eisenstein's “The Battle­ship Potemkin.”

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This film was cutting edge in 1987 but has since somewhat lost its glow. Nevertheless, I found it very entertaining, so what­ever draw­backs attach to it haven't affected my enjoyment or my rating. See it for what it is.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotes taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Zerries, A.J. Stealing From the Dead. New York: Tom Doherty Assoc., 2012. Print.