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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner (1987)

The story of Al Capone, and the mafia as such, is a popular story with dramatists. There have been numerous books and movies that deal with the story of gangsters, and many of them have been exceedingly popular. The story of Al Capone, his rise, the terror he inflicted on society, the way he fought his way to the top, his exploitation of Prohibition to smuggle alcohol, all these were part of his mystique. What was equally remembered about him was the St. Valentine's Day massacre that he committed on his rivals, first disarming 7 of them using his men in police uniform, and then using Tommy guns on them. Equally remembered about him were the efforts of the Government to bring him down (even when Chicago and neighboring towns were controlled by his men, with the police and officials on his payroll), and how we was brought down on a charge of tax evasion rather than for the numerous crimes he committed. The jail term on him was a stiff one, and effectively broke his empire.

Brian De Palma made 4 gangster movies, these 4 being Scarface, Wise guys, Carlito's way, and The Untouchables. The other 3 movies were all about the gangsters, while The Untouchables takes the action from the perspective of lawkeepers, the persons out on a mission to capture the gangster, even when they have to follow rules and laws, while the Gangster can use any kind of force, can subvert the authorities, and threaten whoever they want. The Untouchables is the real life story of the people who managed to break the power of a mob lord against all these factors, and the methods they used (who would have believed that you could send a gangster to prison for tax evasion rather than for the various crimes!).
The movie is based on a subject that has been created earlier as well, and is essentially based on the autobiography of Eliot Ness. Eliot Ness was the agent who was sent to bring Al Capone to justice, and to free Chicago from his destructive and criminal ways. The movie starred Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro and Andy Garcia. Sean Connery won a best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Irish American cop Jim Malone. The movie does not fully present this as a good vs. evil fight, also portraying the parts where Capone showed support for the poor by running soup kitchens and other similar efforts, as also the role where Ness actually throws a hood off the roof of a building rather than bring him in for justice.
The movie is well choreographed, with the scenes bringing out the drama. The scene right at the end, where the juries are switched is gripping, especially if you don't know the story. An eminently watchable movie.

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