The Untouchables (1987) Review

The Untouchables is considered to be a classic gangster film, and for good reason. It has an all-star cast and hits all the police cliches of the genre (emphasis on the police). Despite it’s outstanding story and fantastic acting, it’s not without flaws. With all of it’s head explosions and dramatic speeches… it’s cheesy. And until I confirmed with rottentomatoes, I was wondering if it was intentional.

The Untouchables is the story of Elliot Ness who assembles a small crew of honest cops to take down the dangerous Al Capone. In the process he must watch his, his companions and his family’s backs or suffer the harsh reality of the Chicago streets.

The first main problem that lead to cheesiness is the score. It’s so bloody terrible. With booming orchestras that remind you of a western followed by an electric synth/horn jazz remix, the music is horribly distracting and overwhelms a good chunk of the scenes. I could have taken it more seriously if it had the subtlety (yes subtlety) of Goodfellas, but with the cacophonous score I just can’t.

The cheesiness doesn’t end there. Some of the speeches characters give don’t come off as effective as the writer would like, not because of the actors, but because of the stupid analogies or catchphrases. It’s hard to take Capone seriously when he’s rambling about prize fighting for no reason. While there are genuinely intense and suspenseful scenes, there are plenty of outrageous scenes that leave you with tonal whiplash. From the intensity of a baby and mass shooting to Kevin Costner catching a gun and Andy Garcia stopping the carriage with his leg, it’s not a smooth transition.

Speaking of shitty transitions, the editing in this movie is all over the place. I know this is a snob complaint, but there are many rough cuts and inconsistencies in the editing. The dubbing is absolute shit too, which is a pet peeve of mine. To be fair, the second half of the movie got better (probably because of the second editor).

Now that I’ve complained, lets talk about the good stuff (which we all know isn’t as fun). If you can get past the cheesiness that may or may not be there, then there is an engaging story to be had. The story develops at a good pace and even though we all know how it ends, the journey is still an exciting one. The acting is stupendous, Shaun Connery being his usual big badass (although I don’t know if it was Oscar worthy). DeNiro does an okay Capone, but he still is very DeNiro. It’s not an intense emotional drama like Goodfellas or The Godfather, since it’s from the police perspective, but it does have it’s fair share of character drama.

The Untouchables is a fun and engaging cops and robbers movie, but it’s “classic” status is up to question. That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch it, just that I’m too much of a snob. For the first movie I’ve seen about Chicago since moving there, it’s a pretty good one. The Untouchables is available on Netflix, Amazon Instant, Google Play, itunes and Blockbuster (OH WAIT!).

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