Saturday night comes around and the endless browsing of Netflix's movies doesn't bring to the eye any standouts. Finally, everyone decides on an unknown quantity: The Untouchables. Sean Connery, Robert DeNiro, and gangsters? It ought to be good...
Brothers in Arms
The time is the Prohibition of the 1920s and 30s. Al Capone is king; the mayor of Chicago in his pocket and exceedingly rich from selling illegal liquor for cheap. Instantly, this had me interested. Before this, I don't think I had ever seen a period piece movie focused on the Prohibition era.
Kevin Costner is the main lead, an agent of the Bureau of Prohibition. This role brings him all sorts of ridicule and disapproval. For Prohibition was brought about by a minority of Puritanical men in the upper echelons of power, and the common man found the law against alcohol to be beyond infuriating. While I am not personally a fan of Kevin Costner, he pulls it off with aplomb, making us convinced by his efforts. We sympathize with him as he tries to take on those who would buy or sell illegal liquor in a society that does not truly care about his mission. And we feel for him as he does his best to ignore the challenges before him and the judging people who surround him. But what makes the movie enjoyable, though, isn't just this character and his personal crusade. Instead, it is him and whom he manages to bring with him on this journey. The movie is entirely driven by the characters who populate it, and they are the reason to watch the movie.
As the movie progresses, Kevin Costner brings together a squad that will unseat Capone from power and make him accountable to the law. They are dubbed the Untouchables: men who believe that they are beyond the powerful reach of Capone. And they turn out to be one of the quirkiest cop teams I have ever seen. Sean Connery is a prominent member, playing an incorruptible, near-retired policeman who acts as if he has nothing to lose. He alone makes this movie worth watching as he challenges the entire system, doing it skilfully and with great charisma. Under Sean Connery's expert and badass tutelage, Kevin Costner gathers a team of oddball characters that eventually get involved in some of the most amusing hijinks one would ever expect from a gangster-type movie.
Perhaps it was just my impression, but at times the movie seemed to excel at creating situations that came off as unintentionally hilarious. A major contributing factor is some of the characters. Robert DeNiro plays one of the most over-the-top and despicable, yet funny, villains I've ever seen. In every scene he is in, it is hard to take your eyes off him as you don't quite know what he is going to do next. One could say the same thing of Sean Connery. Both characters do things that are both jaw-dropping yet strangely believable, and it helps keep the movie both entertaining and epic.
What brings the movie considerable appeal is the sheer amount of narm within it. What is narm, you ask? Narm is when an actor, character, or any individual tries to take something seriously, yet ends up eliciting laughter in the viewer instead of solemn nods. This movie is narm-tastic; it oozes the stuff. Whether it be the hilarious charge of the Canadian brigade, the eyebrow-raising antics of how Capone treats his minions, or the fact that a random baby somehow manages to derail the entire movie at one point; this movie turns out to be surprisingly charming on many levels.
Special attention must be paid to that baby. In one of the most memorable scenes I have ever seen, a nameless baby in a carriage manages to halt the entire plot of the movie for at least five minutes. I don't know what the director was thinking. I don't know what the screenwriter was smoking. In fact, filmed any other way, that baby would have been far less funny. And I don't think they were trying to be funny. But I'm glad that they did it, because that scene will be burned into my memory for all time now. In a good way. I wish I could be less vague, but I don't want to ruin it for you. Go see it for yourself.
Yet, despite all my highlighting of the hilarity contained within, I would like to point out that this is also a serious movie. It involves gangsters, these gangsters have guns, and they do use them. There are some deaths, but seem rather tame compared to other gangster movies I've seen, and this is a good thing. The movie does an excellent job at portraying the time period, the costumes and sets look dead accurate, and quite a few scenes are gripping on a number of levels. Being funny is hardly The Untouchables' only positive quality.
Needless to say, I'm very sad that Sean Connery has quit acting. This is definitely one of the best roles he has ever portrayed, and he is entirely believable and completely awesome. In fact, he actually received an Academy Award for the role: Best Supporting Actor. As mentioned before, many of the other characters also have a flair to them which makes them each interesting. The accountant of the team has many great moments, as does the sharpshooter. Robert DeNiro hams it up marvelously and Kevin Costner is believable, if not quite as intriguing as the others.
Negatively, the movie did have a number of scenes that seemed like they should have been removed entirely or had little importance to the overall plot. Kevin Costner's relationship with his wife and child is one example. I could not see how their existence contributed to the movie; it seemed to lose steam whenever they showed up. Also, as amusing and interesting as it was, it doesn't quite match other gangster movies out there. The Godfather is king and, in all, I think I enjoyed the more recent Public Enemies better. But The Untouchables is certainly worth seeing if this review appealed to you, and I heartily recommend it.