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The Untouchables (film)

This article is about the 1987 film. For other uses, see [[Untouchable (disambiguation)#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect.Untouchable]].
The Untouchables
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Art Linson
Screenplay by David Mamet
Based on The Untouchables 
by Oscar Fraley
Eliot Ness
Starring Kevin Costner
Charles Martin Smith
Andy García
Robert De Niro
Sean Connery
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Gerald B. Greenberg
Bill Pankow
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 2, 1987 (1987-06-02) (New York City premiere)
  • June 3, 1987 (1987-06-03) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $106,240,936[2]

The Untouchables is a 1987 American crime drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet. Based on the book The Untouchables, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot Ness. It also stars Robert De Niro as gang leader Al Capone and Sean Connery as Irish-American officer Jimmy Malone (based on the real life agent and member of the "Untouchables" Irish-American Marty Lahart). The film follows Ness' autobiographical account of the efforts of him and his Untouchables to bring Capone to justice during Prohibition. The Grammy Award-winning score was composed by Ennio Morricone and features some period-correct music by Duke Ellington.

The Untouchables was released on June 3, 1987, and received positive reviews. Observers praised the film for its approach, as well as its direction. The film was also a financial success, grossing $76 million domestically. The Untouchables was nominated for four Academy Awards, of which Connery received one for Best Supporting Actor.[2]


During Prohibition, Al Capone (De Niro) has nearly the whole city of Chicago under his control and supplies illegal liquor. Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Costner), summoned to stop Capone, conducts raids using a large squad of officers. After his efforts fail due to corrupt policemen tipping off Capone, he has a chance meeting with incorruptible Irish-American veteran officer Jim Malone (Connery). Knowing of the system's rampant corruption and appreciating Ness's efforts to bring Capone down, Malone decides to work with Ness. To combat corruption, Malone suggests that they enlist men from the police academy who have not yet come under Capone's influence. They recruit Italian-American trainee George Stone (Andy García) for his superior marksmanship and intelligence, and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), assigned to Ness from Washington, D.C., forming a small team that is soon dubbed by the press as "The Untouchables".

Ness's team raids a liquor production, and gets publicity. In a famous scene based on a real event, Al Capone blows head of a henchman he suspected of treason with a baseball bat during a formal mobster dinner. Wallace informs Ness that Capone has not filed an income tax return in four years; therefore, they can try Capone for tax evasion if nothing else. Ness is visited by an alderman who tries to bribe him into dropping the investigation but Ness throws him out. When Capone henchman Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) threatens his family, Ness has them moved to a safer place and then takes the team to the Canada – United States border for a raid on a liquor shipment. Ness chases one of the gangsters into an empty house and kills him in self-defense. Malone captures George (Brad Sullivan), a Capone bookkeeper, and brings him back to the house for interrogation. As George proves uncooperative, Malone grabs the dead man and shoots him to coerce George into cooperating, much to the dismay of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have assisted in the raid.

While Wallace takes George into protective custody, Nitti infiltrates the police station, killing Wallace and George in the service elevator; then writes "touchable" on the wall with blood. Ness angrily confronts Capone and his men, but Malone intervenes, as Capone mocks Ness over the death of his friend. Malone persuades Ness to stall the district attorney (Clifton James) from dropping the case, then corners police chief Mike Dorsett, who sold out Wallace to Capone. Malone learns about another Capone accountant, Walter Payne, and calls Ness with the news. A knife-wielding thug breaks into Malone’s home; Malone forces him out of the backdoor with a shotgun, only to step into a Tommy gun ambush by Nitti. He lives long enough for Ness and Stone to find him, and advise which train Payne will take out of town before he dies.

Ness and Stone arrive at Union Station and find Payne guarded by several gangsters. After the fierce and epic shootout, the two succeed in killing the gangsters and taking Payne alive. He testifies in court about how untaxed cash flowed throughout Capone's organization. Ness notices that Capone seems unperturbed despite the probability of serving a long prison sentence, and also sees Nitti carrying a gun inside his jacket. He escorts Nitti out of the courtroom with the bailiff and discovers that Nitti has the mayor’s permission to carry the weapon. Ness identifies Nitti as Malone’s assassin after seeing Malone's address in Nitti's matchbook.

Nitti shoots the bailiff in a panic and flees to the roof of the courthouse, but Ness corners him. After fighting down his urge to take revenge for Malone, Ness plans to deliver Nitti to the authorities; but when Nitti insults the memory of Malone while also saying that he will never go to prison, Ness angrily pushes him off the roof. In the courtroom, Stone shows Ness a document from Nitti’s jacket that reveals that the jury was bribed, explaining Capone's relaxed mood. The judge has no intention of using it as evidence until Ness bluffs that the judge's name is in Payne’s ledger of payoffs. The judge decides to switch juries with a neighboring courtroom and restart the trial. Upon hearing the judge's order to the bailiff to have the juries switched, Capone immediately realizes what has happened and, contrary to his earlier bored, relaxed mood, becomes angry with his lawyer, telling him to "do something over here." The lawyer, presumably realizing that a fair trial will almost certainly result in Capone's conviction and attempting to mitigate the outcome, proceeds to announce to the judge - without Capone's consent - that they have decided to withdraw the plea of "not guilty," and enter a plea of "guilty." Shocked and infuriated, Capone flies into a hysterical rage, railing furiously first at the judge, and then at Ness, shouting angrily over and over again that he (Ness) is "nothing but a lot of talk and a badge." As the scene ends, Capone has utterly lost his cool, and is seen being dragged from the courtroom, screaming at Ness and struggling to get free of the courtroom bailiffs. In a following scene, back in his office some time later, Ness is seen clipping newspaper headlines announcing first Capone's conviction, and then his eleven-year prison sentence.

Packing up his Chicago office, Ness ponders the Saint Jude pendant that Malone had carried with him for many years, and which Malone had given to him before dying. He gives the pendant to Stone, reasoning that Malone would have wanted a cop to have it. When a reporter mentions that Prohibition is due to be repealed and asks Ness what he might do then, Ness responds, "I think I’ll have a drink."



De Niro wanted one extra scene written for his character, and time to finish his commitment to the Broadway production of Cuba and His Teddy Bear and to gain about Script error: No such module "convert". to play Capone; according to De Palma, De Niro was "very concerned about the shape of his face for the part."[1] The Untouchables began production in Chicago on August 18, 1986.[3] Actual historical Chicago locations were featured in the movie.[4]

A month after the film was released, De Palma downplayed his role on the film:

Being a writer myself, I don't like to take credit for things I didn't do. I didn't develop this script. David [Mamet] used some of my ideas and he didn't use some of them. I looked upon it more clinically, as a piece of material that has to be shaped, with certain scenes here or there. But as for the moral dimension, that's more or less the conception of the script, and I just implemented it with my skills – which are well developed. It's good to walk in somebody else's shoes for a while. You get out of your own obsessions; you are in the service of somebody else's vision, and that's a great discipline for a director.[5]

De Palma met with Bob Hoskins to discuss the role in case De Niro, the director's first choice for the part, turned it down. When De Niro took the part, De Palma mailed Hoskins a check for £20,000 with a "Thank You" note, which prompted Hoskins to call up De Palma and ask him if there were any more movies he didn't want him to be in.[6]


The Untouchables opened on June 3, 1987 in 1,012 theatres where it grossed $10,023,094 on its opening weekend and ranked the sixth-highest opening weekend of 1987. It went on to make $76.2 million in North America.[7] According to producer Art Linson, the polls conducted for the film showed that approximately 50% of the audience was women. "Ordinarily, a violent film attracts predominantly men, but this is also touching, about redemption and relationships and because of that the audience tends to forgive the excesses when it comes to violence".[8]

The Untouchables received positive reviews from film critics and has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Vincent Canby, of The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, calling it "a smashing work" and saying it was "vulgar, violent, funny and sometimes breathtakingly beautiful".[9] Conversely, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film for its action sequences and locations but disapproved of David Mamet's script and Brian De Palma's direction.[10] Hal Hinson, in his review for the Washington Post, also criticized De Palma's direction: "And somehow we're put off here by the spectacular stuff he throws up onto the screen. De Palma's storytelling instincts have given way completely to his interest in film as a visual medium. His only real concern is his own style".[11] Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "Mamet's elegantly efficient script does not waste a word, and De Palma does not waste a shot. The result is a densely layered work moving with confident, compulsive energy".[12]

Ebert singled out De Niro's scenes portraying Al Capone as the biggest disappointment of the film, while giving praise to Sean Connery's work. While he was voted first place in an Empire magazine historical poll for worst film accent,[13] Connery was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance. Pauline Kael called it "a great audience movie – a wonderful potboiler." Time magazine ranked it as one of the best films of 1987.[14]

Academy Awards

Award Person
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sean Connery
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration Patrizia von Brandenstein
William A. Elliott
Hal Gausman
Best Costume Design Marilyn Vance
Best Score Ennio Morricone

American Film Institute

Video game

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Video game reviews/data' not found. A side-scrolling video game was released by Ocean Software in 1989 on ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX, Amiga, DOS, and later on NES and SNES. Based loosely on the movie, the game plays out some of the more significant parts of the film. Set in Chicago, the primary goal of the game is to take down Al Capone's henchmen and eventually detain Capone.

Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Super NES version a 5.8 out of 10, commenting that "This title would have been better if it were Super Scope compatible, for it is a bit difficult to use the pad during the shooting sequences."[20]


In the failed raid at the beginning of the movie, Ness instructs the officers to look for cases marked with a "red maple leaf." The 11-pointed leaf as shown on the cases is anachronistic as it became the official symbol of Canada in 1965.


  1. ^ a b Siskel, Gene (September 21, 1986). "De Niro, De Palma, Mamet Organize Crime with a Difference". Chicago Tribune (ProQuest Archiver). Retrieved 2010-06-04. 
  2. ^ a b "The Feature Film Distribution Deal: A Critical Analysis of the Single Most Important Film Industry Agreement". John W. Cones, 1997, SIU Press, p.7. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  3. ^ "The Untouchables, a Brian De Palma film, to begin production in Chicago on August 18". PR Newswire. HighBeam Research. August 14, 1986. Retrieved 2010-06-04. 
  4. ^ Actual Chicago and Montana locations of historical buildings used in The Untouchables
  5. ^ Bennetts, Leslie (July 6, 1987). "The Untouchables: De Palma's Departure". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-04. 
  6. ^ "Bob Hoskins paid not to play Capone". Metro Newspapers. March 19, 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  7. ^ "The Untouchables". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  8. ^ Darnton, Nina (June 12, 1987). "At the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  9. ^ "De Niro in The Untouchables". The New York Times. June 3, 1987. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 3, 1987). "The Untouchables". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  11. ^ Hinson, Hal (June 3, 1987). "The Untouchables". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  12. ^ Schickel, Richard (June 8, 1987). "In The American Grain". Time. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  13. ^ "Connery 'has worst film accent'". BBC. June 30, 2003. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  14. ^ "Best of '87: Cinema". Time. January 4, 1988. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  15. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  16. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  17. ^ a b AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains
  18. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
  19. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  20. ^ "Review Crew: The Untouchables". Electronic Gaming Monthly (54) (EGM Media, LLC). January 1994. p. 44. 

External links