I've been debating how hard to come down on 'The Untouchables' since I watched it again the other day. I don't know anything about the background of the film; whether it was made in a hurry or if there were problems with the production or a lot of re-shooting afterward. All I know is that with all the talent involved and the subject matter chosen, this should have been a masterpiece, a classic along the lines of 'The Godfather' or 'Goodfellas,' but sadly it doesn't even come close. To say it's an enjoyable little film about nabbing Al Capone is damning it with the slightest of praise. I mean, look at the cast. Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, even Robert De Niro! Can't get much better than that. So it's not them; they do what they can with the material. David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay (or at least gets credit for it), is one of the greatest living American authors. And yet the screenplay is as flat and thin as cardboard. It is almost impossible not to feel that other hands were involved in the story and dialogue; it has practically none of the incisiveness or bite one typically associates with Mamet. The director is Brian De Palma. That's where I'm laying the blame. I have never felt De Palma is the great director some claim him to be and there are many aspects of 'The Untouchables' which reinforce my opinion- multiple examples of shameless audience manipulation and tired clichés. The geeky accountant who becomes a bad-ass during a confrontation and kills a bunch of bad guys. The adoring wife who has one expression, one that says "I love you so much my heart might melt." The old Irish cop who dispenses endless pearls of wisdom and lessons-in-life. The straight-arrow leader who has a personal code he never violates. And all of this is put forward in such a ham-handed fashion; there is no subtlety to anything here. What's even worse is we never really get to know the characters; they are painted so broadly, they never register as anything but stereotypes. But there are SOME good bits in 'The Untouchables.' Mainly Robert De Niro, who is always interesting to watch. His shorthand impersonation of Al Capone strikes me as a throwaway, but it's a good throwaway and he manages to invest a fair amount of menace into the character, behind the fake smile and amiability Capone uses to disarm people. The same can more or less be said about Sean Connery (I can't believe he won an Oscar for this though). Kevin Costner is saddled with perhaps the weakest dialogue as Elliot Ness; the film can never decide who he is or what to do with him. At the beginning, reporters ask Ness, why bother to enforce prohibition? Because it's the law of the land, he says. At the end, they ask him what he'll do if prohibition is repealed. Probably go get a drink, he says. I guess that's supposed to be meaningful and profound. There seems to be no logic to the dialogue or situations. At one point, apropos of nothing, Connery's character leads them on a liquor bust literally on the spur of the moment, with no pre-planning, no explanation of how he knows about it. 'The Untouchables' has a climax of sorts in a railway station, then a courtroom scene which makes no sense at all (how can you switch juries at the END of a trial?). This film consistently disappoints; the fact that it still provides a modicum of entertainment is due mainly to the acting skills of De Niro and Connery.