The Untouchables is a fairly respected film, or at least a highly referenced one. Sean Connery won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance, and I can understand how this role would get him the award - though I suspect a bit of a nod to his body of work is part of it. Now why is it I'm not tremendously moved?
Don't get me wrong. It's well made, full of wonderful moments and character-driven dialog. Our screenwriter here is David Mamet, after all. The plot is well executed, walking a line between following stereotypes of the gangster genre and breaking them.
It is moments like these where I have to question what I brought to the table. I do fear my expectations were high. I was disappointed not to have seen a great movie, true. Did I blow the little things out of proportion from my disappointment? Rating things is a bit of inexact science, full of subjectivity, but I think there is something here just a little amiss.
The story of Elliot Ness versus Al Capone is, in principle, rife with juicy material to build a film around. The journey that Ness takes is one of determination and a fundamental set of principles. You've got Ness' family, and his concern for their safety once Capone was riled up. There's the corruption which permeated seemingly every arm of the government in Chicago at the time, which Ness had to face, and was thwarted by several times. And don't forget the ironies created by prohibition which Capone banked heavily upon.
My feeling is that each individual aspect is treated well enough, but nothing ever comes center stage. It's Ness' battle against Capone, but the two hardly speak a few sentences to each other. Ness wrestles with his conscience in many places along the way, yet the movie is not really about his principles. While there is a depth of treatment we only see too rarely here, the movie is still about nothing more particular than Ness versus Capone.
The filmmaking is beautiful, though. Great shots and imaginative cuts. It's not perfect though. The thing, and I'll admit it's nitpicking, that really bothered me was that, during one rooftop chase, a couple of bottles are lined up along the edge of one roof. And as one character runs by, another characters shoots at him, and misses, hitting the bottles. It is entirely too obvious those bottles are there to be shot. I can understand bottles on a roof. I can even understand bottles on the roof's edge, but the likelihood of bottles - the only two we see in the whole sequence - both being on the edge, and being shot, is fairly ludicrous. I don't think I dwelled on it too much, merely finding it an amusing little gaffe, but perhaps it's one that points at the mortality of the film.
Believe it or not, I'm not actually warning people away from this film. I'm not ready to name a better example of its type, even. It's a good film, just not quite up to its reputation.
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