The Untouchables on the Big Screen

Brian De Palma's The Untouchables movie does not have much in common with the TV series of the same name, other than the setting and the antagonists. A young Kevin Costner plays a less assured Eliot Ness, tutored by Sean Connery in an Academy Award–winning performance as tough Irish cop Jimmy Malone. Perennial gangster movie star Robert De Niro gained a few pounds for a cameo performance as Al Capone.

Sean Connery won an Academy Award for his moving performance as Jimmy Malone, the Irish cop who serves as a mentor to Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness. The character was a purely fictitious addition to the story. Ness had many brave men on his team, but giving him an elder mentor was purely a dramatic device.

The Chicago Way

Award-winning playwright David Mamet's screenplay does not adhere to the historical facts any more than the television show did. Novice Treasury agent Ness arrives in Chicago, and his gung-ho naiveté is mocked by basically the whole Chicago police force and political machinery. He finds “the one good cop in a bad town” in the person of Connery, and together they assemble their version of the Untouchables.

Connery plays a more rough-hewn Obi-Wan Kenobi to Costner's Luke Skywalker as he tutors him in the ways of “the Force,” Chicago style. He delivers the famous advice, “He pulls a knife; you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital; you send one of theirs to the morgue. That's the Chicago way. And that's how you get Capone.”

Three Strikes and You're Out

Perhaps the most famous scene in The Untouchables movie is the De Niro/Capone baseball bat scene. Capone lectures his tuxedo-clad associates about the importance of teamwork as they are enjoying a fine meal and cigars in an elegant setting. He circles the table comparing their business to a baseball team, before savagely bashing the skull of one of the henchmen who allowed a valuable stash of bootleg booze to be impounded by Ness and company. In real life, Capone is alleged to have personally murdered at least three men with a baseball bat.

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