Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 23rd, 2004
The time: Prohibition. The smell of bootleg gin and the sound of bullets lingers in the urban air. It’s Chicago. It’s Good vs. Evil. Elliott Ness vs. Al Capone. Kevin Costner vs. Robert DeNiro. Brian De Palma directs this wonderful period piece. The film drips with as much stylish atmosphere as outlawed booze. I’m not sure if the credit belongs to David Mamet’s imaginative script or De Palma’s direction. Both were at the top of their game with this film. Sean Connery must certainly bear mention as the no nonsense me…tor Malone. In less than 20 years this film has easily earned its classic status. It’s hard to believe that Andy Garcia was an unknown at the time.
Federal Agent Eliott Ness (Costner) vows to take down Al Capone (DeNiro) and his bootleg operation that holds the entire city of Chicago in its terrorizing grip. With the help of an old beat cop, Malone (Connery), a Treasury accountant (Smith), and a Police Academy rising star (Garcia) Ness’s group of “Untouchables” takes on the hoods.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is more than up to the task here. Flying bullets and squealing tires are masterfully re-integrated into the ambient speakers. Remember, this film was released before Surround Sound. Often under these conditions a soundtrack is mixed to “show off” the new available toys. This can be distracting, to say the least. Everything fits nicely into this new package. The Morricone’s stupendous score is faithfully reproduced. The atmosphere is intact here.
The Untouchables is presented in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is solid. There is a considerable amount of grain that should be attributed to the original film stock. It actually adds to the overall period feel of the film. Colors are pretty dead on. Skin tones are particularly accurate here. Darks are solid, but again marked by considerable grain. There is an occasional film speck or print artifact, but this transfer is superior to previous releases.
For a “Collector’s Edition” I would have expected more here. A commentary track featuring Connery or De Niro would have been welcome. I’m sure cost made that impossible.
There is a collection of features here:
- “The Script: The Cast” is the longest feature. Mostly it has vintage cast interviews with new material from De Palma. We learn some interesting cast politics here. Hard to imagine the version of the film the studio wanted.
- “Production Stories” is an interview with Stephen Burum, the film’s Director of Photography. After spending a few moments with this guy I’m amazed the cinematography ended up as good as it did.
- “Reinventing The Genre” We’re treated to more interviews and more “What if’s”.
- “The Classic” looks at the work of composer Morricone. You might remember the name from some of the old Spaghetti Westerns.
- “Original Featurette:The Men” is basically from the promotion department at the time of the film’s release.
- Finally, a spotty print of the trailer rounds out this collection of extras.
Based more on the 1960’s TV series than historical fact, the film’s greatest critics complain about the fictional aspects of the film. I never understood why this film takes so much heat. It’s not like Hollywood is known for treating history with a great amount of reverence. Lately it seems even documentaries are suspect. Bottom line: If you want accuracy, read a biography. If you want to be entertained, watch a good movie. “Herein endeth the lesson”.
Special Features List
- New featurettes: “The Cast, The Script,” “Production Stories,” “Reinventing the Genre,” “The Classic”
- Original feautrette: “The Men”