Talk about narrow fucking escapes. Halfway through one of the interviews with Brian De Palma that make up the raft of extras on this special edition of his lavish gangster epic, the director mentions that Paramount's first choice for the central part of Eliot Ness was Mel Gibson. It's an appalling thought. I mean, imagine Mel hamming it up here, his narcissistic gurning turning De Palma's operatic vision into mugging farce. Fortunately, Mel had other commitments, and the role of Ness, as De Palma had always intended, went to the then relatively unknown Kevin Costner.

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 5

Product:

The Untouchables

Talk about narrow fucking escapes. Halfway through one of the interviews with Brian De Palma that make up the raft of extras on this special edition of his lavish gangster epic, the director mentions that Paramount’s first choice for the central part of Eliot Ness was Mel Gibson. It’s an appalling thought. I mean, imagine Mel hamming it up here, his narcissistic gurning turning De Palma’s operatic vision into mugging farce. Fortunately, Mel had other commitments, and the role of Ness, as De Palma had always intended, went to the then relatively unknown Kevin Costner. It was a typically astute piece of casting. Say what you like about Costner, but as he reminded us recently in Open Range, no one does unimpeachable probity with such absolute conviction and conspicuous lack of irony.

Ness is that rare thing?a fundamentally good man, dedicated to honesty and justice, who takes on Al Capone’s criminal empire and the corrupt police force that protects him. Anyone else but the four-square Costner would have been risible in the part. His unfussy performance also throws into dramatic relief the rugged charisma of Oscar-winning Sean Connery as the veteran cop who shows Ness how to beat the mob, and Robert De Niro’s barnstorming turn as a pampered, psychotic Capone. According to his detractors?and they are both legion and tiresome?De Palma’s taste for the sensational, intemperate gore and a generally doubtful attitude to women in his movies means he can’t be taken seriously as a director. For those of us in thrall to a certain kind of cinema, he’s a master, and The Untouchables?like Scarface and Carlito’s Way?finds him at the top of his formidable game. Brilliant.