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The Untouchables

"The Untouchables" on DVD

High Caliber Action

Brian De Palma's version of the old TV series is a violent but engrossing story of gangland Chicago and the comeuppance of Al Capone.

Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) is an idealistic Treasury Department agent whose reason for being is to bring Al Capone to justice. Capone, brilliantly played by Robert De Niro, is a larger than life figure who's feared by all yet has also become somewhat of a media darling. He's ruthless yet charming and he runs Chicago with an iron fist.

Ness is really out of his league, but he meets crusty old Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery in his Oscar-winning performance), an almost-stereotypical Irish cop whose been around the block so many times he has enough life and job experience to make up for his flat feet. Malone becomes Ness teammate and mentor, advising him on how to beat the mob at its own game.

His advice amounts to "shoot first and shoot best" and, while it was undoubtedly wise advice, it also leads to the decimation of Ness team of "Untouchables" (played, besides Costner and Connery, by Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia). Ness takes the advice to heart, reluctantly, when he's forced to gun down a perpetrator in a border-crossing booze bust that's almost fouled up by overzealous Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers from across the river.

The success of Ness' raid leads to brutal retaliation by Capone's men, and an escalation of the bloodletting that sees only two of the Untouchables still alive at movie's end. Along the way there's plenty of corruption and action to satisfy almost any cop film fan.

The violence is graphic, but not unnecessary, and David Mamet's screenplay itself is powerful, gripping, shocking, and at times moving. It's also a tad predictable in a couple of places, for instance the baby carriage sequence, but on the whole the few rather contrived moments don't take from the overall quality of the film.

The DVD is presented in widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV's and while the picture appears a tad soft it still looks and sounds great. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't offer a lot of surround, but it doesn't seem to matter. For extras, the disc is limited to the usual soundtrack languages and subtitles, plus the theatrical trailer, which to our way of thinking doesn't amount to any extras at all.

The Untouchables, from Paramount Home Video
119 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia.
Produced by Art Linson
Written by David Mamet, Directed by Brian de Palma


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Updated May 13, 2006