How The Untouchables Took A Baseball Bat For The Gangster Movie


When Sean Connery died in October 2020, obituaries dutifully took on his James Bond career, his support for Scottish nationalism and the many iconic roles he played. But sooner or later, every tribute happily remembered the role for which it had won its only Oscar, that of incorruptible Irish cop Jim Malone in Brian de Palma’s mobster epic The Untouchables.

Although Connery’s complete lack of interest in trying an Irish accent might, under normal circumstances, damage his credibility as an actor, it was helped by his ability to spit out some of the most iconic dialogue (written by none other than David Mamet) which no such film had ever seen. “He pulls out a knife, you pull out a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! It’s the Chicago way.

Yet for all Connery’s showboating, The Untouchables, which turns 35 this year, is a fascinating exercise in Hollywood chemistry. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked. It combined an untested lead actor, an ungovernable auteur director, a subject matter that seemed old hat – who really cared about Prohibition in 1987? — and, in the plum role of Al Capone gang lord Robert de Niro, undertaking painstaking preparation that threatened to be a self-indulgent vagrancy in method excess. And somehow, these disparate elements combined to produce a brilliantly baroque exercise in high-class thriller cinema – though it took an unusual degree of difficulty to perfect.

The television series the film was based on was set between 1959 and 1963 and starred Robert Stack as Eliot Ness, a straight-arrow Prohibition agent who attempts to bring down the crime empire of Capone in Chicago in 1930. It was inspired by Ness’s bestseller and published posthumously. memoir, which mitigated his less heroic personal traits as a womanizer and, perhaps ironically given his job, alcoholism. Nonetheless, the show was a huge hit, although the Italian-American community was offended by its xenophobic depiction of them as gangsters and criminals.

The idea of ​​remaking the series as a movie seemed to make commercial sense, especially after the huge success of The Godfather and its sequel. His Paramount studio turned to producer Art Linson, who was responsible for hit comedies such as Car Wash and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and asked if he would be able to put together a similar quality package. .


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