The Untouchables 1987 *****

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Sequel and prequels (Capone Rising) have come to nothing; Brian De Palma’s 1987 gangster opus remains one of the best examples of reworking a hit tv show on an epic scale. There’s an operatic sweep to the story of Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner), the FBI-enforcer who sets out to bring down Al Capone (Robert De Niro) with the help of an old Chicago cop (Sean Connery). Also a couple of the effects now show their age, and the film’s budgetary concerns are visible, The Untouchables has one great scene after another; the store bombing, the first border raid and it’s bloody aftermath, the baseball scene, the railway-station shoot out, the show-down with Frank Nitti (the late, great Billy Drago). Costner fits his white-collar character like a glove, and Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia make ideal support. David Mamet’s script also crackles with great dialogue, and De Palma’s sweeping camera and desire to entertain made The Untouchables an instant classic.

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Widows 2018 ****

Steve McQueen has something of a reputation as a pretentious film-school type, but Widows is easily his best film, mainly because it’s the first time he’s attempted to tell a story in an entertaining rather than a tortuous way. Here, McQueen dusts off the old 1983 ITV Linda La Plante crime series, adapted by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn, and it’s a slow-burning heist film with some political aspirations. Three widows of hardened thieves join forced when their husbands are killed during a robbery. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debricki. Various factions are searching for missing money, and Davis initiates a heist based on her late husband’s notes. Meanwhile, there’s Colin Farrell as a crooked politician, Robert Duvall as his racist father and Daniel Kaluuya as a psychotic thug and they’re all sniffing around the cash. It takes about two hours of slow-burning menace and social commentary to get to the action, which is swift and undeniably exciting. The political stuff, about how the patriarchy use faked female empowerment news stories to disguise their criminal activity, is sharp and very 2018, but ultimately this is bang-bang cops and robbers stuff, very enjoyable to watch and with some very flashy moments. It can be compared to the great 1996 B movie Set It Off, and that’s high praise for Widows.

Three Kings 1999 ***

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Pre American Hustle work from David O Russell, this Gulf War drama with a difference is a key film in his canon, demonstrating that he could deal with big stars and action while retaining his indie style. Russell and star George Clooney reportedly came to fisticuffs during filming, but if there was on-set tension, it doesn’t show in this heist film with a difference. Archie Gates (Clooney) and Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) are US soldiers who gets wind of a stash of hidden gold. She soldiers have selfish motives for their adventure, but the find themselves politicalised, and end up helping a group of Iraqi insurgents who are rebelling against Saddam Hussein.  David O Russell makes this tale of mercenaries turned freedom fighters into a comic parable, staging one action sequence to the strains of Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now and there ‘s also a notable torture sequence in which Troy is made to drink oil but his captors. A forerunner of Clooney’s Monuments Men, Three Kings is a war film that doesn’t reply on patriotism, but attempts to establish a common good across racial and international borders.