By Charles Cassady Jr.,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Cops vs. the mob in bloody Prohibition-era drama.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Plenty of swearing, including "f--k," "Goddamit," "whore," "s--t," "ass," "piss," and "Christ" used as an exclamation. Also, some ethnic slurs, like "wop."
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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.
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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.
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Where to Watch
Based on 4 parent reviews
Great movie, must watch!
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Great Gangster Film Adapted From What Really Happened
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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?
THE UNTOUCHABLES is a lot fun despite the corniness and simplifications. 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. With bigger-than-life actors, direction, and snappy dialogue (by playwright David Mamet), this film comes on like, well, gangbusters.
Talk to Your Kids 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 committing 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?
- In theaters: June 3, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: May 9, 2017
- Cast: Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery
- Director: Brian De Palma
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Last updated: May 26, 2023
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