Paramount Home Entertainment -
1987 - 119
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For anyone that is looking to pop in a movie that they really remember liking a lot but haven't seen in a while, The Untouchables is a good choice to fill that assignment. I for one remember really enjoying this movie, and as I watched it again for the first time in a decade (the movie came out in 1987), I remembered why. I also found myself recalling many details that I thought I had long since forgotten, including (I'm embarrassed to say) the fact that Sean Connery's character Jim Malone lived at 1634 Racine. We'll blame that on the fact that I am a storehouse of useless information, particularly in regards to movies. At any rate, the point is that it is a memorable movie.
Brian De Palma's film about Eliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and his struggle against Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in Prohibition-era Chicago is one of the best crime/drama movies in the last 20 years. Right from the start, we are introduced to the violence and corruption that gripped the city during these tough times. We understand that Al Capone all but runs the city, and when a clean cut, straight-shooting treasury agent (Ness) enters the picture, we know right away that this assignment will be far from easy.
It's lucky for the good guys that Ness somewhat accidentally recruits Jim Malone. Malone is a tough, street-wise, beat cop that seems to know more than could possibly be good for him about Capone and how and where his alcohol smuggling operations are run. Throw in a promising young police recruit in George Stone (Andy Garcia) and a wrong-place-right-time accountant in Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), and you have your band of 'Untouchables'.
This quartet really starts getting Capone's undivided attention after successfully breaking up some very profitable smuggling operations. This is where the movie gets its punch. With Ness hitting Capone where it hurts, his money, and Capone doing likewise to Ness with respect to his family, it really is a man-to-man prize fight. For anyone who has taken a history course in recent memory, we know that Ness is the last man left standing, with Capone eventually getting indicted on tax evasion charges. Not the way you would prefer to take down Capone, but effective nonetheless.
Having last owned this gem on VHS, I was very happy to pick this one up on DVD. In the video department, I was not disappointed. The video overall was very clean, and the colors (as one would expect) were very vibrant. The level of detail and contrast in the scenes at Capone's hotel and the church where Malone and Ness hatch their plans are visually stunning. The movies darker scenes, including the initial alcohol bust hold up well, with only the slightest breakdown and pixilation in very few scenes.
Being a 15 year-old movie, I wasn't expecting too much in the audio department, though the 5.1 sound did have me intrigued, for all of about five minutes. The audio was disappointing. I was expecting better use of the rear channels, and some more enveloping music. What I got was a pretty good stereo soundtrack. The fronts had decent separation and some respectable sound effects like background office noises and flash bulbs, but nothing to write home about. The heavily relied upon center came through in a few scenes with an intimidating Tommy gun and a worthwhile airplane, but not enough to convince me or make me forget that the rear channels were left neglected and were all but dead overall. With the exception of a few particularly heated scenes, they were almost unnoticeable. The subwoofer may have barked once during the whole performance.
If you want to point to a disk as the desk reference for the bare minimum a DVD can offer, this is the one. Are you ready for the massive contents of this disk? Hold on to your stadium seating. Here it comes: Play, Setup, Theatrical Trailer, and Scene Selection. That's right campers. No S'mores or ghost stories. No Truth or Dare. That's all you get. Darn near embarrassing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Though this is certainly one of the better films you can pop in your player, it is most decidedly not one of the better DVDs. Not even close. Paramount was nice enough to put it out on DVD, but I bet you could get the laser disc for about $3 and be just as happy.
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