Brian Depalma's phenomenal 1987 directorial effort combines a remarkable cast with David Mamet's intelligent and highly memorable screenplay. The film focuses on Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), a prohibition-era officer who is faced with the task of cleaning up Chicago's streets. This is an especially tough task, given the name at the top - Al Capone (Robert Deniro).
Although Ness's straightforward early attempts at trying to make a different turn into an embarassment as he finds that Capone is staying one step ahead, it's not long before things change in his favor. After a bust goes sour for Ness, he quickly tries to gather a team that will assist him in searching out Capone's sources and closing them off. Ness's second-in-command is Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), a tough beat cop. They're joined by George Stone (Andy Garcia) and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), who manages to fight Capone from the inside, trying to figure out the criminal's tax cheats.
When the group - called "The Untouchables" - interrupts a shipment that Capone has headed towards the city - he hits back, with tragic results. At that point, Ness - despite the fact that everyone seems to be against him - goes to try and take down Capone once and for all. The film's dialogue remains classic, especially many of Connery's patches of dialogue: "You wanna know how you do it? Here's how: they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send on of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"
Stylish and visually impressive still today, "The Untouchables" benefits greatly from the work of cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, legendary composer Ennio Morricone, art director William A. Elliott, set decorator Hal Gausman, costume designers Marilyn Vance and Giorgio Armani, among others. The film's period detail and appearance is striking, especially considering the fairly modest budget.
The performances are nothing less than marvelous. Costner has taken on some great roles, but he has rarely been better than he has here as the conflicted Ness, who begins to break the laws to get the job done. Connery's award-winning performance offers touches of humor and a lot of heart; it's a classic effort. Supporting efforts from Deniro, Smith and Garcia are also very memorable.
Overall, this is certainly a classic in the genre. The performances are masterful and Mamet's screenplay is fantastic. Paramount's new edition offers similar presentation quality, as well as a new group of supplemental features.
VIDEO: "Untouchables" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This appears to be the same transfer as the one for the prior release. Picture quality is perfectly reasonable, but there are some minor concerns at times. Sharpness and detail are usually satisfactory, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined, aside from a couple of slightly soft-looking shots.
Minor shimmering and edge enhancement appear during a few scenes in the film, but these instances were not too terribly distracting. The print was certainly not very worn, but there were a few minor specks and marks that were visible in some scenes. Light-to-mild grain was also spotted here-and-there. Colors remained warm and well-rendered, with no smearing or other flaws.
SOUND: "Untouchables" is presented here with a new Dolby Digital 5.1-EX soundtrack. The new soundtrack is fine, although not too noteworthy. The majority of the audio comes from the front speakers, unsurprisingly. However, the rear speakers do offer some minor reinforcement of the score and a couple of instances of ambience and effects. The back rear surround is put to some minor use. Audio quality is fine, as the score sounded full and crisp, while dialogue often sounded clear and clean. Some instances of dialogue do have a different tonal sound, however, and seem to have been recorded differently than the rest.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, there is no commentary from the cast or filmmakers included. Instead, we get a series of featurettes.
"The Script, The Cast" is a nearly 20-minute exploration of the pre-production aspects of the movie. We learn more about Depalma and Mamet's involvement, casting and studio involvement, among other issues. Unfortunately, all of the actor interviews (Costner, Connery, etc) are taken from the original production interviews. Still, I found this to be an interesting piece that took the viewer from early talks and concepts through towards the production of the film.
"Production Stories" is another nearly 20-minute piece that offers comments from the actors, Depalma, Mamet, director of photography Stephen H. Burum and others. This piece takes a look at the look of the sets, shooting on location and visual style. It's a moderately interesting piece that gives viewers an idea of the research and concepts that went into different aspects of the production.
Finally, we get the shorter pieces "Reinventing the Genre", "The Classic" and the original production featurette, "The Men". Also included is the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Untouchables" is an outstanding film, with terrific performances from Costner, Connery and others. Paramount's DVD offers similar audio quality, the same video quality and a few new supplements. Those who don't already own the film should pick up this DVD, as Paramount's new edition is reasonably priced and includes a set of moderately interesting featurettes. Those who already own the original release may want to replace their copy if they can find this new one on sale, as the featurettes are good, but not terribly extensive.
The Film *** 1/2