The Untouchables

March 9, 2013

Quite simply, this is cartoonish, even comedic, Hollywood action-fest at its finest. Power is the only virtue to be held, and whoever wields the gun that sends his opponent to the morgue over the hospital is the hero. There is no drama to this film, only bullets flying around a 1930’s set decoration.


Mr. Ness from the Treasury department is sent to Chicago to clean up the business of alcohol during prohibition. Mr. Capone is the king-pin of the liquor trade in that city, though not much is established about his character. He has no more than a dozen scenes in the film, with perhaps two-dozen lines. Yet it is this target of illegitimacy that Mr. Ness vows to uphold the law and carry justice. Nevermind thef act that the law of prohibition itself looks ludicrous 90 years later, and that there are a multitude of head-scratching scenes where it appears Mr. Ness operates on an unlimited budget, and not under the United States Constitution.


He cheekily learns the corruption in Chicago, and also cheekily learns how to adapt to it. Fortunately Sean Connery happens to walk the beat and knows how to take down Capone if only he had the opportunity. Fortunately again Mr. Ness runs into Mr. Connery (why use his character name?) and he assembles a team of gangbusters, which operate entirely outside the law, but receive adulation by the press for their violent retribution.


The simplicity in which justice is delivered highlights the simple-mindedness of the cinematic audience which cannot contemplate more complex and ambiguous explorations of the meaning of justice. After all, Capone could not have been successful if there was not a large population that needed a liquid only a decade ago was legal. And his machinery in maintaining the spigot flow, while sometimes violent, could have been the most peaceful method possible; i.e., bribing police to look the other way could be interpreted as a way a human society organizes itself against a superfluous federal power which judges itself to intervene in the lives of people.


To suggest such a thesis is beyond the reach, and even eyesight, of this film. It is not attempting to be profound; after all, this is Hollywood – money needs to be made. Thus cartoonish action rules the day, as well as a cartoonish pacing of the film, where tension and conflict are so artificially positioned the next step in the plot can be seen half an hour before it transpires.


How in the hell did this movie receive approbation? The directing is decent, and the acting – while performing under an extremely limited range of anger and somber – is typical of a high-budget professional film. Perhaps Mr. Connery tickled the film critics of yore, because this was a severe goose-egg letdown.


I could have summarized the film with: no substance, no drama, and no business seeing.


Grade: F



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