During his acceptance speech for the Oscar for best supporting actor in The Untouchables, Sean Connery famously quipped, “My name is Connery, Sean Connery.” Connery defined the role as British secret agent 007, just as the role would come to define Connery for much of his career. There is even some debate over whether or not Connery really “deserved” the Oscar for his role in The Untouchables or whether the Academy was giving him a “lifetime achievement award” (see also John Wayne, Denzel Washington, Al Pacino).
Rewatching The Untouchables, Connery seems such a natural playing the mentor to Kevin Costner’s Elliott Ness, that it’s easy to see why some would think Connery’s award more for his body of work than what he does here. But Connery really sinks his teeth into Malone, giving us a great performance that stands on its own — regardless of past associations to a certain British secret agent. The movie is a bit more electric when Connery is on-screen and the film and Connery invest so much into the character that when his death comes, it’s easy to feel the same anguish that Costner’s Ness does.
I remember seeing The Untouchables when it aired on TV after Connery had won the Oscar. I have stronger memories of the Mad Magazine parody of the film than I do of the movie itself — beyond the death of Malone sequence. Having only seen it edited for TV, I was surprised by the amount of violence and blood in the film. Of course, there has to be a certain amount because this is a mob movie. The action is well-directed by Brian DePalma and I found a POV sequence when a mob assassin breaks into Malone’s apartment to be particularly fascinating. DePalma goes to the POV well a couple of times in the film, but none is quite as striking.
I’ve heard that at this point in his career, Connery was accepting just about any role that came his way in an attempt to get work and to somehow come out of the shadow cast on him by Bond. Some of those roles turned out great for him (this one, Hunt for Red October) while others may have left you scratching your head a bit (The Russia House). A good friend used to joke with me that Michael Caine would show up to be in your junior high school production of Grease as long as you provided craft services. Certainly, that same joke could be applied to Connery at times. Continue reading