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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Untouchables': A Grandiose Depiction of Elliot Ness' Historic Campaign to Bring Down Al Capone

Movie poster for Brian De Palma's 1987 film The Untouchables

The Untouchables (1987) is a forceful and dynamic crime drama starring Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, the American Prohibition agent who gained fame for his steadfast determination to end the reign of Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) as crime boss over the city of Chicago.

Beginning in 1930, the storyline follows young Ness as he heads up a task force within the Bureau of Prohibition to halt Capone's illegal liquor trade. Recruiting veteran officer Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) alongside marksman George Stone (Andy Garcia) and forensic accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), Ness and his "Untouchable" crew lay siege upon Capone's illicit operations. Determining that prosecuting a case against Capone for tax evasion is their best course of action, the team hones in on his personal bookkeeper—an invaluable target whose apprehension becomes the flashpoint for a galvanizing tale of intrigue and suspense.

Adapted by David Mamet from Ness' own memoir and directed by legendary American filmmaker Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill, Scarface), The Untouchables is a thrilling historical drama delivered with unbridled panache. De Palma is at the top of his game here, crafting a big booming ode to Howard Hawks and the American gangster films of yesteryear—with major assists from cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and composer Ennio Morricone. Bold, violent and extraordinarily entertaining, it's one of the very best films of the 1980's altogether.


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