Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1987. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by David Mamet, suggested by the book by Oscar Fraley, Eliot Ness. Cinematography by Stephen H. Burum. Produced by Art Linson. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by William A. Elliott. Costume Design by Marilyn Vance. Film Editing by Gerald B. Greenberg, Bill Pankow. Academy Awards 1987. Golden Globe Awards 1987.
This adaptation of the Elliot Ness co-authored novel (the inspiration for a popular television series of the sixties) is a taut and exciting thriller in the best sense of the genre. Kevin Costner plays straight-arrow Ness, the federal agent who has made it his personal mission to bring down the gangland antics of Al Capone (a frightening Robert De Niro). As usual, De Palma borrows liberally from all the great masters of the past, the most notable ripoff being a climactic gun battle in a train station that is clearly inspired by the Odessa Steps sequence in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. The screenplay by David Mamet is a gem, and the wonderful costumes and production design bring the story to life with accuracy and detail. Sean Connery gives a lot of intelligence to his scenes as one of Ness’s closest friends, and Patricia Clarkson makes her film debut as Ness’s wife.