Monday, April 17, 2006

The Untouchables

Is this a classic? I really don't know. I saw Brian De Palma's (who seems to be underrated today - perhaps because of his switch to blockbusters?) gangster film in 1987 when it came out and didn't think much of it. I hadn't seen it since and when it was on Finnish TV last night, I watched it (and rather surprisingly Elina watched it with me, even though she doesn't normally care for crime films). I seem to remember that that was the consensus at the time: nice output, but mediocre story.

Now I thought it was a better film, but not without flaws, some of them major. The characters never come alive, especially the sidekicks (why bother having Andy Garcia in the movie when he gets only one scene to himself and nothing much else?) and the women (I didn't even notice Eliot Ness's wife was pregnant until they suddenly had a baby!). The storyline is not memorable and the dialogue isn't really what you'd think David Mamet would've written. Where's the staccato when you need it?!

The biggest problem seems to be that there's not depth in the story. That's a big problem with many of De Palma's films, but here you'd want some insight into the history of Volstead act and prohibition. What's bugging Capone? What's behind the Sean Connery character? What's everything gotta do with immigrants and migration to the US? These should've been touched on, even slightly.

But then again there are some breath-taking moments. I wanted to burst out screaming in the famous baby carriage scene. It's De Palma at his best. The attack at the bridge is also very good. There are other great touches throughout the film - De Palma makes one of the best pans in the whole industry. Ennio Morricone's theme song is brilliant (but in some of the pieces you could hear too well that the drum sound is strictly eighties: very slight, but still mixed on top of everything else). Giorgio Armani's clothes weren't too overtly eighties, though, which is a plus, if you ask me. (And I do know that the eighties are very hot at the moment.)

So, is it a classic? Ask me again in 2025.

PS. Near the end, there's a scene in which Eliot Ness/Kevin Costner drops one of the bad guys from the roof. De Palma cuts to the man falling, then shows Costner shouting something, then cuts again to the bad guy screaming in a close-up and then to him falling to ground. I said to Elina: "That wasn't necessary. I'd've switched to another scene already from the actual pushing."


pHinn said...

I've always found this film really empty. The only good thing for me is the last line of Eliot Ness in the movie, when he's asked what he's going to do after the Prohibition is over, and he tells that he's going to have a drink. In effect showing the hypocrisy of the whole situation.

Juri said...

That's what I was trying to say. It's *about* nothing. Even the last line is empty to me, implicating that the creators really didn't know what they were set to do. The line would work if they had showed that Ness/Costner has some doubts about his work.

But still there are those major moments of sheer brilliance. As in almost every De Palma movie. Hell, I must be the only person in the world who liked BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES! (Haven't seen it since, though.) My favourite point of De Palma brilliance is the climax of RAISING CAIN in which the bad guy (SPOILER!!!!) gets the spear in his belly.

Anonymous said...

I think that De Palma was wildly overrated by some, but had his detractors from the git-go. I've found his films uniformly unclever, and doubt I'd gain too much from another viewing of THE UNTOUCHABLES, but might be mistaken. Not only empty, as I remember it, but thoroughly that post-RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY Peckinpah way, though without the distictive flourishes.