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Untouchables [4K UHD], The

Paramount // R // May 31, 2022
List Price: $25.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted May 31, 2022 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

I can add The Untouchables to the list of films that I'd seen when it first came out, and seen in the movie theater with my Dad. I'm not sure what interest I'd had in seeing it, but my Dad was a fan of a lot of people in the film and given its backdrop he was a sucker for films like that. So maybe seeing this and To Live and Die in L.A. when I was impressionable screwed me up more than whatever treatment Dad gave me, I don't know.

David Mamet (Heist) adapted the book of the same name into a screenplay that Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible) would direct. Set in 1930 Chicago, the focus is on Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner, Bull Durham), and his quest to arrest Al Capone (Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver) in the hopes of sending him to jail. With the help of Malone (Sean Connery, Dr. No), Wallace (Charles Martin Smith, Never Cry Wolf) and Stone (Andy Garcia, Ocean's Eleven) , the group named the Untouchables fight crime and city corruption to try and get Capone.

So I guess if there were such a thing, The Untouchables could be described as a viewer's most accessible film to the De Palma oeuvre? Lots of stuff to build tension, lots of moments for the stars to shine (no small part to Mamet's writing), definite moments of gore here and there. But in the decades since, The Untouchables hasn't aged well in a lot of areas. First off, the late 80s where basically Costner's decade and he was a good looking guy, but against James Bond and young Michael Corleone, his physical charisma looks even more out of place. Heck, you could make the case that Garcia, for his limited screen time, does more with his appearances than Costner does as Ness, who looks like he would flinch even if you wrote the word ‘Boo!' on a piece of paper, even after he's learned the ways of how to do things in Chicago.

Also when it comes to the larger machinations of the story, things are hugely conventional to the point of self-contortion by the protagonist. The court stuff is fun but come on, like 90% of it feels like it lets the first 90 minutes of the film down in a strange way. With a film that is deliberate on building up relationships between the quartet and seeing how each other works, this deliberation is cast aside for expediency for a couple of moments that could have been better planned elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong, if you've never seen the movie before, The Untouchables is a fun ride, but it seems like when you see a band and they're playing the stadium hits and giving short shrift to the club stuff they got good at. Moments in the show are good (in this case, Connery is an additional delight, showing why he won the Best Supporting Oscar), but it doesn't rise to the level of cinematic comfort food. It's less than fine, but still fine. To be clear this is not a negative review, I still like the film! It's just not at the level of some of the other ones that have been done since.

The UHD:
The Video:

In the past I'd seen mention of a 4K restoration for The Untouchables, and I know that there's a Dolby Vision presentation of the film, and I know that I haven't seen the film in a while, but the film looks a little off to me. Daylight exterior shots are great, whether it's the opening when the store gets bombed, or during the raid at the Canadian (Montana) border. Early interior shots are good and the various bloodied bodies have sharp crimson in them. And I forget how much of the look of the film is intentional but there are moments when the lighting changes that show up clearly on the 4K, and other moments of haloing. Image detail is good but if this was a restoration (no notes on same appear in the copy I received), more could have been done.

The Sound:

The Dolby Atmos track was more impressive for me, starting with Ennio Morricone's score, and followed (again) by the store bombing which included explosions through most of the channels. Dialogue was well-balanced in the middle of the soundstage, and environmental affects sounding clean and immersive. It comes through the theater a little more boisterous than you'd expect but it's pleasantly surprising.

The Extras:

So everything from the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray is ported over here so things are a mix of information and nostalgia. "The Script, The Cast" (18:31) looks at the script when De Palma arrived to it, and thoughts on adapting the TV show into movie form. Casting the leads is recounted, as are recollections on their approaches (using dated cast interviews) and Bob Hoskins almost being Capone at one point? Nice pseudo retrospective piece here. "Production Stories" (17:18) gets into the visual intent of the film, production designs, location design, hair, makeup and wardrobe for the early ‘30s-set film. "Reinventing the Genre" (14:24) is less a discussion of that and more production stories on the film's big scenes, and working with Morricone. "The Classic" (5:39) looks at the film between post-production and release, while "The Men" (5:26) is the aforementioned dated piece of interviews from the ensemble. The trailer (2:49) and a digital code are the remaining extras.

Final Thoughts:

It was fun to go through the ride that is The Untouchables again, even if it continues to lose its luster with each additional viewing. Connery remains great, Costner remains grating, De Niro is De Niro, and so on. Technically, the UHD is like the film, good but not great, and the bonus material (particularly on the film's 35th year of life) could have had a new breather put into it. If you have the Blu-ray I'd hang onto it, but I'd check it out if you are the unlucky few who haven't yet.

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