I know you all agree with me, and the only question in your minds is which scene I will choose for today’s installment of the F*@% Yeah Files (movie edition). Will it be Al Capone’s (Robert DeNiro) notorious baseball scene, when he demonstrates the effect a Louisville slugger can have on a human skull? Perhaps the scene when Elliot Ness (Costner) launches Frank Nitti off the roof of the Chicago courthouse and into a car far below, Lethal Weapon-style? Maybe the man-on-man kissing scene between Costner and Andy Garcia? …hang on, I’m thinking of The Touchables, which I rented one lonely night along with E.T., The Extra Testicle and Field of Reams.
What the hell, let’s get crazy and pick two scenes.
The first scene takes place in a cabin on the Canadian border, after Elliot Ness’s gangbusters have teamed up with some Canadian Mounties to intercept a shipment of contraband alcohol. They’ve captured one gangster, who is not cooperating. The tough Chicago cops try to rough up the goon, but the upright Canadian cop won’t allow it. Jim Malone (Sean Connery), who plays dirty, decides to put the fear of God into their captive, so he grabs his gun and goes out on the porch, where (unbeknownst to the captive) another mobster has succumbed to his wounds.
Malone grabs the dead man’s body and threatens to shoot if he doesn’t talk while their captive listens with increasing unease. Malone hoists the corpse up against the cabin window in full view of the live mobster, shoves his gun in the dead guy’s mouth, and yells, “I’ll give you to the count of three to tell me what I want to know!”
Of course, the dead guy says nothing, so Malone pulls the trigger. Blood sprays, and the prisoner inside the cabin freaks out big time – he’ll talk. The Mountie is aghast as well. “I don’t approve of your methods!”
“You’re not from Chicago,” Elliot Ness says.
Oh, F*@% Yeah!
The only scene that tops that one is the one sequence that everybody remembers from The Untouchables – the baby carriage scene, an homage to a classic scene in Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Like I'd know. I saw the Odessa steps sequence in Film Studies class, but I've never seen Eisenstein's entire movie. I'm just trying to act smart.
I won’t insult you by describing the whole thing frame-by-frame -- actually, yes I will insult you. After Sean Connery dies a bloody death (SPOILER!), Ness decides to go after Capone for tax evasion, and to do that he needs to nab Capone’s bookkeeper at Union Station.
Ness and Stone (Garcia) wait for the mobsters to arrive at the train station. It's almost midnight. Ness takes a position at the top of a huge flight of stairs and waits. Is that a mobster down below...? No, just some guy meeting his sweetheart.
While he waits, Ness notices a young mother struggling with a baby carriage, trying to pull it up the stairs. Ever gallant, Ness moves to help the woman pull the carriage up.
While he's pulling the carriage up he spots Capone's men. First one. Then another. Then another. He spots the bookkeeper.
A bandaged thug at the top of the stairs recognizes Ness... and IT IS ON. Ness pulls a shotgun from his overcoat, still holding the baby carriage, and blows Bandaged Thug away.
Chaos. Bullets start flying. Ness loses his grip on the baby carriage while shooting another goon, and it starts to careen down the stairs. A mobster at the bottom of the stairs starts shooting at Ness, who shoots a couple more bad guys. He's out of shotgun ammo.
He's got to save the baby! Ness pulls out a pistol and dives after the runaway carriage while mobsters shoot at him from all directions.
Bystanders are getting tagged left and right. Ness shoots at the guy at the bottom of the stairs, who ducks behind a pillar.
Shit, Ness is out of ammo again! He's screwed - the guy behind the pillar is reloading, and a wounded mobster on the stairs is still shooting at him.
Stone runs up, drawing two pistols. He throws one to Ness, who blows away the guy behind the pillar.
Stone does a sliding save at the bottom of the stairs, catching the baby carriage while drawing down on the last thug on the stairs. That's some cool shit right there.
Stand-off. Desperate, the wounded mobster grabs the bookkeeper and holds a gun to his head. The mobster says he'll kill the bookkeeper unless Ness lets them leave. "You got five seconds to make up your mind!"
"You got him?" Ness asks Stone.
"I got him," Stone says.
The cornered mobster is freaking out. He starts to count. "One--!"
One shot, right in the head.
"Two," Stone says.
F*@% Yeah, and F*@% Yeah again!
Long dismissed by suckers as a pale imitator of Hitchcock, director Brian DePalma came into his own with this film, and in particular this legendary sequence, which is so perfectly choreographed and edited that it deservedly became a classic. When I saw it in the theater for the first time I forgot to breathe. In my mind, it’s one of the top ten action scenes of the 20th century. I am prone to hyperbole, it’s true – but you gotta recognize The Untouchables. You gotta recognize.
Willem? What say you?