Untouchables, The (198): De Palma’s Crime Drama, Starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery in Oscar Winning Performance


Sean Connery Untouchables - PhotoFest - H 2020 - 1604154487

Sean Connery and Kevin Costner in ‘The Untouchables.’


Set in Chicago during the Depression, The Untouchables, Brian De Palma’s stylish crime saga stars Kevin Costner as G-man Eliot Ness at his most handsome and Robert De Niro as Al Capone at his coolest and scariest.

However, it’s Sean Connery as James Malone, the tough and honest Chicago cop, who steals the show as Ness’ mentor, instructing him of how to play the Chicago’s Mafia game rules and in the process loses his life.

In his sharply observed scenario, playwright David Mate gives the familiar scenario a fresh angle and an edge.

The movie contains three or four outstanding set-pieces, include a rooftop chase, and a Canadian border ambush. Bt the one set-piece that gave viewers pause and made them talk about the most was De Palma’s homage to Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 masterpiece, “Battleship Potemkin,” which depicts a baby carriage bouncing down the steps in slow-mo as Ness and Capone’s gang shoot it out; in the Russian film, it was a mother and child. (See my review).

The domestic-marital scenes between Ness and his wife Catharine (played by the very young Patricia Clarkson) are not as strong as the violent ones, but they help in balancing the narrative, offering a decent female role to what’s a decidedly male-driven picture (and genre).

Production values, including Stephen H. Burum’s cinematography, art design, costume, and Ennio Morricone’s music are top-notch, accounting for one of the most enjoyable pictures of the year, the kind of which only Hollywood can do well.

Oscar Nominations: 4

Supporting Actor: Sean Connery

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Patrizia Von Brandenstein and William A. Elliott; Hal Gausman

Original Score: Ennio Morricone

Costume design: Marilyn Vance-Straker

Oscar Awards: 1

Supporting Actor

Oscar Context

In 1987, Bertolucci’s historical epic “The Last Emperor” swept most of the Oscars, including Best Picture, Art Direction, Scoring (by Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, and Cong Fu), Costumes (James Acheson), and Editing (by Jerry Greenberg and Bill Pankow).

This was Sean Connery’s first and only nomination, and though he no doubt deserved it, the feeling was that he also won it for years of playing the cool 007 in the James Bond film series.

Connery won over competition from Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News,” Morgan Freeman in “Street Smart,” Vincent Gardenia in “Moonstruck,” and Denzel Washington in “Cry Freedom.”


Paramount (Art Linson)

Running time: 119 Minutes