The Untouchables

 
(i)

 

Cops vs. the mob in bloody Prohibition-era drama.
  • Review Date: October 17, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Somewhat mixed message: It is possible to resist overwhelming public corruption. But to bring down a crime lord, "incorruptible" Eliot Ness must cross the line himself, becoming a liar and a revenge-driven murderer. In short, good guy must be more ruthless than the bad guys.

Positive role models

Eliot Ness is an upstanding family man and bribe-proof lawman who nonetheless resorts to vigilante justice and blackmail in pursuit of justice (and revenge). Many police and politicians are corrupt. There's a brief audio clip of radio's Amos and Andy sitcom, now considered racist, plus slurs about Irish and Italians.

Violence

Much shooting with revolver, rifle, and shotgun, with and bloody wounds and death (including head shots).
Capone fatally beats a man with a baseball bat. Bomb blasts (one of which instantly kills a little girl). A villain falls to his death from a great height.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Plenty of swearing, including "f--k," "Goddamit," "whore," "s--t," "ass," "piss," and "Christ" used as an exclamation. Also, some ethnic slurs, like "wop."
 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The Prohibition era  and drinking alcohol are key elements in the plot; Ness orders police not to drink while Prohibition is in force (smoking is OK, though), though even the heroic "Untouchables" drink when nobody is looking. When Prohibition is lifted at the end, Ness himself turns out to be a drinker.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic top-cop vs. the mob drama has bloody violence and deaths of heroic and sympathetic characters, principally in shootings (including head shots) and shotgun blasts. A bomb explosions kills a child, and another in a baby carriage is nearly caught in a crossfire. There's a messy aftermath of a notorious shock scene in which Al Capone beats a character to death, just offscreen, with a baseball bat. Swearing is heavy ("f--k" and "s--t," etc.). Most characters smoke and drink.

What's the story?

In Prohibition-era Chicago, organized crime prospers under arch-gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro), who earns millions selling bootleg liquor, extortion and other vices through various lieutenants and underbosses. Proud US Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is appointed to specifically tear down the criminal empire, but learns the hard way that Capone has well-paid agents, spies, and informants even in the police. Fortunately Ness befriends Malone (Sean Connery), a streetwise Irish-American officer who mentors the young lawman in street tactics, including putting together a core team of "untouchable," bribe-proof deputies. Cleverly determining that ordinary tax law can lock away Capone -- he's hasn't filed a tax statement, naturally, for his illegal millions -- Ness and the Untouchables clash with the crime lord's deadliest gunmen in the prelude to Capone's trial.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

It's often said real-life lawman and city safety director Eliot Ness, when he died virtually forgotten in 1957, had no clue his name would be famous as a pop-culture crimefighter. It was the inaccurate "nonfiction" bestselling book The Untouchables and a network TV-series adaptation (1959-1963) that inspired this entertaining, super-deluxe, big-scale feature film, which, despite frequent swearing and bloodletting, is very old-school Hollywood in its flavor and morality (and failure to get the facts straight). The good guys are really good, the bad guys are hissably evil -- none of that trendy romanticizing the mob or pretending criminals are cool rebels. Bigger-than-life actors, direction, and snappy dialogue (by playwright David Mamet) make THE UNTOUCHABLES a lot fun despite the corniness and simplifications. It comes on like, well, gangbusters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the violence in this movie. How realistic is it? How does it affect you after watching it? Does who is commiting the violence make a difference?

  •  

  • The newspapers in the film seem to be friendlier with Al Capone than with Eliot Ness. Are there criminals today who have the media spotlight? What is so appealing about colorful criminal characters, if anything?

  • Elliot Ness ends up breaking the law himself. Do the means justify the end?

  • This movie is based on real lives and real events. How have they been changed or dramatized? How can you find out the real story?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 3, 1987
DVD release date:October 5, 2004
Cast:Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery
Director:Brian De Palma
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Action/Adventure
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of The Untouchables was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old November 5, 2011
 

Great movie

This is a really good movie. It is very gory, but I'm sure that most twelve year old boys will say, "That's so AWESOME!" It is a bit iffy because the violence can be disturbing and it's sad when some of the best characters die. The most disturbing part is when Al Capone mutilates a man's head with a baseball bat. The characters are likeable, and when bad guys die, the revenge is bitter-sweet. I would definitely recommend this movie, especially if you have played L.A. Noire, because it is one of the movies the game is based on.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn September 8, 2011
 

Overrated prohibition era crime thriller is for adults only.

Love him or hate em, I just really have never been a big fan of Brian De Palma. I know, I know. I just don't know what it is about him. I just don't enjoy his movies. There is just something about them that I can never put in words. The Untouchables, is certainly no exception for me, and even though it is loved by many and even got Sean Connery a Oscar, but I just didn't enjoy it. Although, I'm quiet sure many will. But, this movie is very violent, bloody, profane and is awash with realistic racism for the time and place. Still, the violence really gives us a extremely brief look as to what the mob was like, and gives us plenty of bloody shootouts that aren't appropriate for most teens. Still, if you are into these sort of movies, than fantastic. I just wasn't. That's all there was to it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old December 21, 2011
 

Good!

This was a very good movie with Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro. The movie contains "the step sequence" which is considered one of the best movie shootouts ever. It is definitely worth seeing.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass