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  1.  (8602.1)


    http://andrenavarro.wordpress.com/


    Despite a mediocre career as of late, Brian DePalma is one of the most interesting and talented directors in the industry; a master at using inventive camera movements and complex mise-en-scène in the service of the narrative (instead of as a self-indulgent end in itself), he is also unflinching with violence or sex. In fact, it doesn’t surprise me that his last great work (that I’ve watched) was my all-time favorite film, CARLITO’S WAY — after all, what do you do after you’ve made something as magnificent as CARLITO’S WAY? Fucking MISSION TO MARS, apparently.

    THE UNTOUCHABLES is from a rich time in DePalma’s filmography, soon after he had directed the fascinating BODY DOUBLE and the exceptional SCARFACE. And it’s an embarassing misstep and one of his most overrated films. David Mamet wrote it, and his approach was to turn Eliot Ness into an impulsive retard, to reduce his legendary group of Untouchables from eleven to three, to have Ness tutored by one of the group members for the entire film and to introduce one or two scenes with Al Capone acting like a dick so we’ll hate him more than we hate Ness for being an idiot.

    I have a deeply-rooted annoyance with “dramatic license”, which I call “laziness license”, constantly exploited by writers who change history to suit their writing skills better instead of doing a proper adaptation job. Mamet uses the names of Eliot Ness and Al Capone to add weight and importance to the characters — but the price to pay for such a thing, staying true to the real people whose names you’re using, is completely ignored by the writer. Throughout the course of the film, Eliot Ness needs to be taught the job he was chosen to perform, endangers civilians, throws a man off a roof to his death (said man in real life killed himself years later) and goes to a train station where he knows something very dangerous is about to occur. And how many people does he take with him as backup? One.

    Even if Kevin Costner acted well, it would be difficult to sympathize with the mentally-challenged Ness written by Mamet. However, Costner offers a lacklustre, inexpressive performance, downright mediocre whenever he has an emotional outburst. The then-inexperienced Andy Garcia displayed natural charisma, although he botches some of his lines (notice the uncomfortable pause when he says “that’s much better than you, you stinkin’ Irish… pig”). Charles Martin Smith does what he can with a hopelessly pathetic character (the moment he turns into Rambo and kills several people with a shotgun is absolutely ridiculous — his character is a fucking accountant). It’s Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro who stand out, the former as fictional beat cop Jim Malone, an Irishman who tutors Ness for the duration of the film. A fun and likeable character, very well-played by Connery, but brought down by his own implausibility — a beat cop who spends an entire film teaching a federal law-enforcement agent with a master’s degree in Criminology how to catch criminals. As for DeNiro, he’s excellent as usual, but his participation is more of an extended cameo than anything. The scenes he’s in serve little narrative purpose, or are just pathetic (such as the one where Eliot Ness, once again proving his astonishing stupidity, confronts him at a staircase).

    DePalma put a lot of effort in directing this film — his camera movements and mise-en-scéne are as interesting as ever — but when it comes to subtlety this is DePalma at his worst. With an equally obnoxious Ennio Morricone (yes, even Ennio fucking Morricone fails on this film) composing an overdone, unsuited and melodramatic soundtrack, DePalma’s handling of emotional moments is ham-handed (with the exception of a murder inside an elevator, when DePalma emphasizes the character’s last breath with a sudden and brutal close-up) and the action scene happening at the bridge is carelessly shot and edited — it’s the one with the Rambo accountant, too. The train station sequence in slow-motion, although competent, is far from brilliant, with a few clumsy shots and the circumstances it happens in (Eliot Ness endangering civilians and with a single cop as backup) weaken it severely. Years later, DePalma would direct an infinitely superior sequence happening at a station in CARLITO’S WAY (the last half-hour of that film is absolutely flawless filmmaking). But DePalma’s worst moment in THE UNTOUCHABLES is easily the one where a guy is thrown off a roof, a moment so clumsily filmed it’s embarassing to watch.

    To make things worse, the dialogue is mediocre. I’m not very familiar with Mamet’s body of work yet, but he has a good reputation in this field. Not that you’d know from this film. What Ness says to Capone in the ending is ridiculous, and the same can be said of Capone’s monologue before bashing a guy’s brains in. There’s one or two memorable lines, but mostly it’s shit like “He’s as dead as Julius Caesar” or “He’s in the car” (that last one depends on context, but it’s an out-of-place joke and horribly unsuited for the character who says it).

    THE UNTOUCHABLES is not boring, but it’s a weak piece of storytelling that doesn’t deserve its title — it should go for a film with balls, willing to tell the real story or at least something closer to it.
  2.  (8602.2)
    pfft. I still like this movie- it's a bit corney, but it's older and I think it fits with the genre, and Ness IRL wasn't exactly the safest guy around.There's also a TV series of the same name, with Robert Stack playing Ness, which is weird as they were friends in real life, if Stack's commentary in Unsolved Mysteries is to be believed. I also watched the 1993 series, but don't remember much; other than Ness might as well be in the public's eye considered a prohibition version of Wyatt Earp- a guy focused on the ideal of the law but not necessarily following the rules of the law... Like Braveheart, I don't expect historical accuracy. To me it's just a portrayal of an American prohibition-era myth.

    Besides, would we really want to watch a film about a bunch of drunks chasing down other people for drinking, getting into alcohol-induced car accidents, and shooting at folks while pretending to be god's gift to mankind?
  3.  (8602.3)
    pfft. I still like this movie- it's a bit corney, but it's older


    Older movies are not necessarily corny. Many films before this weren't, such as DePalma's SCARFACE.

    and Ness IRL wasn't exactly the safest guy around.


    Never said he was a walking anti-bullet dome, but it's a fairly safe bet he wasn't the careless retard seen in this film.

    Like Braveheart, I don't expect historical accuracy. To me it's just a portrayal of an American prohibition-era myth.


    I always hope for a degree of historical accuracy in a film using real people's names and events they were involved in, unless the film has a disclaimer before it starts, or has fictional main characters (in which case the real-life ones are used as supporting roles to build the illusion associated with them, such as the era they lived in -- GLADIATOR being an example). I think it's careless to take whatever is useful to you from History and scrap the rest. The real challenge is to make what actually happened work onscreen. I don't demand perfect accuracy, of course, but this film goes way too far in the opposite direction, and if you're going to fictionalize pretty much everything, why not go all the way? CITIZEN KANE didn't need to use William Randolph Hearst's real name to base the protagonist on him. It's far more interesting to take elements from different real people to create a good fictional character, than taking a real person and turning them into someone else (in the case of THE UNTOUCHABLES, into an annoying idiot).

    Besides, would we really want to watch a film about a bunch of drunks chasing down other people for drinking, getting into alcohol-induced car accidents, and shooting at folks while pretending to be god's gift to mankind?


    Uuuuh -- FUCK YES I would. This sounds great.
  4.  (8602.4)
    Gladiator was really really damn historically inaccurate.Really. Really. Really. That's a good example of taking what you like of history and scrapping 90% of the rest. >:)

    ....

    also- to your last line-

    You're a silly-billy :)

    It's kinda interesting -on Ness and Capone- there's still quite a few folks out there who knew them.
  5.  (8602.5)
    Gladiator was really really damn historically inaccurate.Really. Really. Really. That's a good example of taking what you like of history and scrapping 90% of the rest.


    No, because as I said, the main character in GLADIATOR is fictional. The real supporting characters are used to build the historical setting. The story isn't about Commodus, but about Maximus, who never existed. In a movie with a fictional protagonist, historical accuracy isn't to be expected.

    The reason for this is when I go to see a movie with a real-life character as protagonist, I automatically expect SOME accuracy regarding their lives, and it's frustrating to see the movie go from accurate to innacurate and back to accurate again. I went to see PUBLIC ENEMIES to see John Dillinger's story or something close to it, and when I got neither (except for a really convincing performance by Johnny Depp), it mostly felt like a waste of time.

    But I went to see GLADIATOR to see the story of a fictional general-turned-gladiator. Historical accuracy wasn't expected or needed, because the main plot was entirely fictional.
  6.  (8602.6)
    Well, a gladiator-thug is suspected in having murdered Commodus, but I believe it was in a bath or something like that.
  7.  (8602.7)
    Narcissus, yeah. Maximus is partially based on him. But Narcissus was a wrestler.
  8.  (8602.8)
    So you would've been upset if Maximus was named Narcissus, but aren't because they changed his name?
    I'm kinda confused here, Andre. Would the Untouchables have been less awful in your eyes if they'd changed Ness's name to Bob?
  9.  (8602.9)
    So you would've been upset if Maximus was named Narcissus, but aren't because they changed his name?
    I'm kinda confused here, Andre. Would the Untouchables have been less awful in your eyes if they'd changed Ness's name to Bob?


    I'll explain: in GLADIATOR, Maximus (who in the first draft of the script WAS actually called Narcissus until someone presumably realized this was pointless) is a Roman general turned gladiator. Narcissus was a wrestler and Commodus' personal trainer. Call Maximus what you'd like, it's established right from the start he's not a representation of the real Narcissus. If they kept that as his name, I would've been puzzled, but not upset because GLADIATOR never tries to be a real story. The presence of a fictional character in a real setting changes history into fiction. In real life, Marcus Aurelius wanted Commodus as his successor. In the film, he doesn't because he likes Maximus better, which leads Commodus to murder Aurelius, which leads to a whole fictional chain of events. So the existence of Maximus in the film turns it into a historical "what if". This is why a fictional protagonist automatically establishes a film as fiction. So to answer your question, no, it's not just about the name.

    Now: in real life, there was a law-enforcement group led by Eliot Ness called The Untouchables, with the task of bringing Al Capone to justice. The film is called THE UNTOUCHABLES and is about a law-enforcement group led by Eliot Ness called The Untouchables, with the task of bringing Al Capone to justice. The premise of the film is the same as that of the real story. With the protagonist being a real-life cop, and the villain a real-life gangster, a degree of authenticity is established right off the bat, with effort being made even to make the characters look like their real-life counterparts (especially De Niro as Capone).

    And then fictional supporting characters start to show up. The Untouchables go from a dozen to four. Things that never happened in real life start happening in the film. Uncomfortably, you start to realize you will, after all, be watching a fictional movie. And then the changes made by the writer start to look way less interesting, far less plausible and way more ridiculous than the things that actually happened. The character of Eliot Ness, initially shaped after the real Ness, soon turns into an impulsive goody-two-shoes moron.

    THE UNTOUCHABLES starts as a film based on true events, to almost complete fiction, and mediocre fiction at that. So, would the film have been better if Ness' name was changed to Bob? No. It would've been better if Ness was a more interesting and ambiguous character. If it detailed the extent of Al Capone's operations and empire instead of having Robert De Niro show up onscreen every twenty minutes, say something dickish or kill someone, then leave again. It would've been better if it stuck to facts, because this way we wouldn't have to endure pathetic scenes such as the Rambo accountant.

    An example of a film that sticks relatively well to facts (although it deviates here and there, of course) is DONNIE BRASCO. Regardless of its changes, the personalities of the characters are believable and the film successfully expresses the gist of the things the actual Donnie Brasco had to go through. It's not as accurate as it could be, but it's within an acceptable level of accuracy, and that only enriches the film. It's close enough. The same can't be said of THE UNTOUCHABLES, and its fiction is nowhere near as interesting as reality.

    On the other side of the coin -- and this is why I'm so disappointed by innacurate historical films -- is CINDERELLA MAN (or anything written by Akiva Goldsman, really -- A BEAUTIFUL MIND is equally ridiculous in this regard). The film pretends to be the story of actual boxer James Braddock. But the film's greatest sin has nothing to do with Braddock: it's the portrayal of boxer Max Baer, Braddock's rival and the film's villain, as an utter cunt. In the film, Baer is proud of having killed an adversary during a fight, and when he isn't fighting he's having sex and drinking. In real life, Baer regretted the killing of his opponent for the rest of his life and sent money to the guy's family always. Baer was reportedly considered a gentleman and a nice guy, but Goldsman turned him into a monster for the film because he's a talentless hack who doesn't know how to write anything subtle. So "dramatic license" came in and allowed him to do all the changes he wanted. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is another critically-acclaimed film that demonizes a person who, in real life, went through a lot of sacrifice.

    So no. It doesn't have to do only with names.