My Favorite Scene #5 – The Untouchables Opening Scene “The Mayor of Chicago”

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In a movie with so many great scenes, so many great performances, it remains this scene, this perfectly nuanced scene, played incredibly by DeNiro and shot even more incredibly by DePalma, giving DeNiro’s Capone one of the best introductions in cinema (just below the Kurgan’s introduction in Highlander), shot with a few sparse edits, a crane shot, in one room, the framing and blocking exemplary, the introduction to a character and the tone of a movie so brilliant, it is a master class of restraint in directing and writing (unlike the histrionics in the ‘baseball bat’ scene and the derivative nature of the ‘train station steps’ scene).
The words of Mamet are given focus by the camerawork of DePalma (and perhaps this is one of the greatest pairing of writer and director in film) and it prepares us for the introduction of each successive character, makes us sit up and pay attention to the workings of each, and right after this, when the young girl explodes and when the young agent dies in the elevator and when Malone dies in the most violent manner possible, we understand just how psychotic the man in the beginning, the man this is all about, we understand just the type of character he really is, and how great his hold is not just on a city, not just on a nation, but on each character in the movie.

One response »

  1. I haven’t seen ‘The Untouchables’ for a few years, but seeing this scene again and how it’s shot reminded me how crisp and vivid the film’s style was. The film is so beautifully structured that many scenes stay detailed in the memory because of their composition. This contrasts with so many modern action films that are ‘busy’ and frenetic and just wash over you and leave no lasting memory.

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