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The Untouchables (1987)

tomatometer

80

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 55
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 11

Slick on the surface but loaded with artful touches, Brian DePalma's classical gangster thriller is a sharp look at period Chicago crime, featuring excellent performances from a top-notch cast.

77

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 3

Slick on the surface but loaded with artful touches, Brian DePalma's classical gangster thriller is a sharp look at period Chicago crime, featuring excellent performances from a top-notch cast.

audience

89

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 214,645

My Rating

Movie Info

Like the TV series that shared the same title, The Untouchables (1987) was an account of the battle between gangster Al Capone and lawman Eliot Ness, this time in the form of a feature film boasting big stars, a big budget, and a script from respected playwright David Mamet. Kevin Costner stars as Ness, a federal agent who has come to Chicago during the Prohibition Era, when corruption in the local police department is rampant. His mission is to put crime lord Capone (Robert De Niro) out of

R,

Drama, Action & Adventure

David Mamet

Jan 16, 2001

Paramount Pictures

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All Critics (55) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (11) | DVD (33)

A deeply satisfying and entertaining Prohibition gang-buster directed with a Tommy gun's rat-tat-tat.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Untouchables could be the breakthrough movie for Kevin Costner, a folksy, Gary Cooperish actor who holds center stage as Eliot Ness.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Where, under his stainless-steel incorruptibility, was Ness' gnawing flaw? To Mamet and De Palma, goodness and dullness seem inseparable.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's an action film without much personality or drive and without enough imaginative detail to make the action gripping or meaningful.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It goes to that place that all films aspiring to greatness must attain: the country of myth, where all the figures must be larger and more vivid than life.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The results are watchable enough, with a particularly adept use of Sean Connery, Chicago locations, and period details.

May 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The best cop/mob movie remains decidedly untouchable.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Lyles' Movie Files
Lyles' Movie Files

De Palma does superb job with the action sequences, which are choreographed, paced and acted out so well that they don't leave a palm dry in the house.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Philadelphia Daily News

Brian De Palma's version blends style, violence and a host of fine character portrayals into a rousing, point-blank period film.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

For many the main attraction of this modern classic is Sean Connery's Oscar-winning turn as the veteran Irish cop who shows Costner the ropes.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

De Palma's style rides substance out of town to leave a glorious compendium of genre cool, remixing the original '50s TV series just as Indiana Jones took a whip to '30s serial adventures.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

From a director of De Palma's resources -- both aesthetic and, these days, financial -- it's fair to expect something more than just not being bored.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Unlike some past De Palma films, though, The Untouchables makes some of its strongest impressions in sequences that build suspense and characterization without readily resorting to mayhem.

June 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

...a consistently watchable yet sporadically captivating piece of work that is, unfortunately, starting to show its age...

October 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

A perfectly adequate Hollywood movie, even classy and entertaining at times, but, despite De Palma's brilliant set piece which reworks the Odessa steps sequence from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, this is disappointing stuff.

May 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comment (1)
Film4

The film mostly revels in nostalgia and feels numb.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid | Comment (1)
Combustible Celluloid

De Palma's masterpiece is an exhilarating, moving and larger-than-life cops vs. crooks epic. Connery and De Niro steal the show in charismatic supporting turns. The best film of 1987.

February 18, 2006
FulvueDrive-in.com

De Palma's stylish crime-gangster tale is extremely enjoybale in large measure due to the set-pieces and homages to Sergio Leone and Eisenstein, but also to Sean Connery's great performance for which he deservedly won the Supporting Actor Oscar.

June 25, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

De Palma, Mamet, De Niro, Connery ... what's not to like?

April 3, 2005
eFilmCritic.com

Audience Reviews for The Untouchables

Though there are certain historical liberties taken with the story of the Untouchables taking down Al Capone, this film is completely forgiven. It's a historical period piece, an action film, and a gangster crime film all rolled up into one. Whether or not Al Capone was justified in breaking the Volstead Act and bringing alcohol into the Chicago streets is history's burden, but the violence exacted upon his enemies was the same as a warlord, and for that the audience wants to see him go down. Seeing Eliot Ness (Costner) take Capone (De Niro) down was a sweet victory, in a film fraught with the deaths of many. The crusade that the Untouchables took on, risking their own lives to their detriment, was personal and heroic, and this film shows that. Not only that but every one of them is defined as an action hero, though some of them may be accountants, other beat cops. Every scene is artfully done, whether they're at the battle on the bridge, or the nod to "Battleship Potemkin" at the train station, or the rooftop chase, it's a sweetly crafted ode to these heroes, and the lives that they lived and lost. It's a really cool movie, and for a period piece, that's pretty difficult to pull off.
March 29, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

Written by David Mamet and directed by Brian De Palma, this is a flashy retelling of Eliot Ness and his quest to bring down Al Capone on the mean streets of Prohibition era Chicago.

I used to be quite fond of this film, but time, re viewings, and some other factors have lead me to realize that this film isn't quite the gem I once thought it was.

There are liberties with the history, and I expected that, but not only that, there's really not a whole lot of character development or that strong of a story here. Yeah, the pacing's tight, but I feel like things are perhaps a bit too rushed, and more time could be spent building the story instead of just jumping right in from event to event.

The period details are quite good though, and the film nails the era fine. The historical errors just come with character, development, and the general plot/story. Ennio Morricone's music, while good (save for a track or two), is misused, with the cues showing up at inappropriate times, making for a jarring effect. The film feels really uneven, especially with the music, but in general too. It's like they were unsure what kind of tone they were shooting for.

Okay, now for more praise. This film is stylish, and quite entertaining. There's a strong cast, and the performances are pretty decent. I don't know if Connery necessarily deserved the Oscar he got for this, but he is a joy to watch, even if I don't quite buy him as a veteran beat cop.

Being a De Palma film, there's some great cinematography and camera work, complete with a few nice long take/tracking shots. Even though the film is kinda uneven, there are some quite suspenseful scenes throughout, with perhaps the highlight being the climax at the train station which features a loving tribute to the "Odessa steps" sequence from Battleship Potemkin.

All in all, this film isn't nearly as good as people remember it to be. It's quite flawed, yet somehow I can't bring myself to rate it any lower, despite my gripes with it. Perhaps that's a bit hypocritical, but hell, even the cops took drinks while enforcing Prohibition, so yeah, nobody's perfect.

In any case, I still recommend this, even though I knew it could have been a lot better, and I know what could have been done to get it that way.
October 3, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
August 18, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

    1. Frank Nitti: Your friend screamed like a Irish pig.
    2. Eliot Ness: Did he sound anything like that?
    – Submitted by joseph j (4 months ago)
    1. Jim Malone: Federal agents! This is a raid!
    – Submitted by joseph j (4 months ago)
    1. Oscar Wallace: This man could finger Al Capone. This man could put Capone behind bars.
    – Submitted by joseph j (4 months ago)
    1. Eliot Ness: Never stop fighting till the fight is done.
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Al Capone: I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND!
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Jim Malone: Once you enter this door, there's not going back!
    – Submitted by John W (17 months ago)
View all quotes (17)

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Foreign Titles

  • Die Unbestechlichen (DE)
  • The Untouchables (1987) (CA)
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