Naive agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is tasked with bringing Chicago’s lawlessness under control by catching and convicting gangster Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) who controls most of the city. Conducting his first raid on Capone’s alcohol smuggling operation with a large force from the Chicago Police Department leaves Ness a laughing-stock as the gang are expecting him thanks to the corrupt cops within the department. Realising that he can’t trust anyone in the department, and after a chance meeting with veteran Irish-American beat cop Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), Ness recruits his own team of incorruptible officers starting with Malone. Rounding out ‘The Untouchables’, as they would later be dubbed, are trainee police officer and sharpshooter George Stone (Andy Garcia) and Forensic Accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) assigned to Ness by Washington. Led by Ness and Malone, who takes it upon himself to show Ness what it really means to be a police man on the corrupt Chicago streets, the team wage war on Capone’s organisation raiding illegal liquor shipments and warehouses. Wallace reveals to Ness that Capone hasn’t filed a tax return for four years meaning that if they can prove he has received an income from his criminal activities they can try him for tax evasion.
The film is beautifully realised, 30’s Chicago jumps off the screen as totally believable, and from the outset the score (written by legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone) creates a tense atmosphere that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. Graphically violent (the scene of Capone with the baseball bat being a standout moment) the film subtly deals with aspects of morality, relationships, and redemption whilst keeping the story moving at a comfortable pace.
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 that’s how you get Capone.
Despite Costner being the star the film is stolen by both Connery and DeNiro; the former delivering a powerhouse performance and always seeming to have the best lines and the latter packing on 30 pounds to method act Capone as an enigmatic ‘rock-star’ who basks in the attention of the media and, despite his propensity for violence and criminal activities, is adored by the public.
Taught and well written The Untouchables is a modern classic in every way.