(Dir. Brian de Palma) (1987)
This is a gangster movie staged as Grand Opera, as a driven, unseasoned treasury official, Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) tries to shut down the illegal liquor trade of Chicago crime kingpin Al Capone (Robert De Niro), and finds that he has to cut all legal corners to do it. Though tending to the mawkish at times, the film rattles along with force and panache, to a dynamic score by Ennio Morricone and including some sensational (arguably histrionic) set pieces, such as the shoot-out at the Canadian border, Mr Capone’s charming ‘human baseball’ speech to his underlings, the bloodbath at the railway station and the massacre at the courthouse. I’m not sure about the veracity of the legal procedures presented here! Changing a plea without instructions? (But its not a documentary, after all.) There are great Irish and Italian ‘types’, particularly Sean Connery as the honest but savvy beat cop. There are a few passing references to the idiocy of the eighteenth amendment, prohibition showing what happens when you ban a desired commodity – it becomes even more desired. Let’s drink to that!
A friend and colleague has a priceless (but not for sale) poster of the film (uscita italiana), signed by the principals: