Since this weeks big release "Gangster Squad" is a shallow rip off of one of the greatest crime genre films ever made, why not go right to the source – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! We’re bypassing the subpar imitation and instead heading back to 1987 to covet the original. It’s a film that worked so well because of an alignment of all the best elements – an amazing cast, stellar script and a director who knew how to add panache. Never stop fighting till the fighting’s done – it’s..."The Untouchables!"
It’s a time of prohibition in Chicago and gangster Al Capone is cashing in. With virtually the whole city under his control, Capone has become an unstoppable crime force. On the other side of that coin is Agent Eliot Ness, a decent and dedicated man who vows to stop the corruption and bring order back to the city. But being such a stickler for the law and an outsider, Ness enlists the help of some cohorts including street-wise Irish cop Jim Malone, newbie Italian trainee George Stone and apprehensive helper accountant Oscar Wallace. Together as a group of Untouchables they raid Capone’s businesses, bust his shipments and put serious pressure on a man already eager to kill.
I’m sure most of you have seen this film, but I’ve been surprised recently by how many haven’t. "The Untouchables" marks a real once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between some of the best and brightest in movies and thus provide five-star product. First off you have a script written by Pulitzer Prize winning screenwriter David Mamet. What does that mean? It means fully fleshed out characters (even small roles like slimy bad guy Frank Nitti get lush language treatment!), tons of great quotable lines (“They pull 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 a real affinity to getting to the truth in any and every scene fast. Add to that stylish visuals and staging via Director Brian De Palma, who uses everything in his body of work arsenal to create one masterful looking and feeling flick. It’s the scope of "Scarface," the style of "Body Double," and the edge of "Dressed to Kill" all rolled up into one thoughtful picture masquerading as a big Hollywood blockbuster. (The train station sequence might just be De Palma's directing tour-de-force!)
But in the end it’s the actors who take everything and bring the thing to life and "The Untouchables" features the best of the best – at their peak. Kevin Costner as the focused Ness, Sean Connery (who won a long overdue Oscar for his work here!) as the world weary Malone, a young and budding Andy Garcia as Stone and especially the out of place Charles Martin Smith as the accountant turned gunman Wallace all make Mamet’s Untouchables a winning team. Matched with a furiously inspired turn by Robert De Niro as the burly Capone and slimeball Billy Drago as the white suited Nitti makes this possible the best assembled cast ever. (Thank uber-producer Art Linson for all of the above!)
Style and substance, gloss and depth, "The Untouchables" is one of those rare occasions where everything that makes a movie great is represented. So while "Gangster Squad" and other subsequent films tried in vein to repeat the magic of De Palma and company, there’s just no substitute once you’ve experienced greatness. Good rule of thumb to always leave the best 'untouched' – here endeth the lesson.