Now, it is not an actual rule here on Movie Monday (what can I tell you, it’s been a hell of a week) that we only review bad movies. I never said that or set out to do it. But bad movies are so much funnier, as a rule. However, this week we’re talking about a legitimately good film, 1987’s The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, written by David Mamet and starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro. With a score by Ennio Morricone, yet!
It is a pretty good film, and you should probably watch it. But I’m not here to talk about the quality of the film. I’m here to talk about a completely ridiculous pet peeve I have with it.
My pet peeve is Frank Nitti.
Now, in case you did not know it, Frank Nitti was a real guy. He was born in Italy and moved to the US in the 1890s. He was pals with Al Capone’s brothers and eventually became part of his gang, rising to become one of his top goons. He was called “The Enforcer,” and he basically ran Capone’s muscle division.
This is he.
In the film, Nitti is a dapper assassin with a sardonic smirk, played by veteran bad guy actor Billy Drago (if, like me, you are me, you may remember him from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.).
Not too much of an obvious resemblance.
At the climax of the film, Nitti talks shit about Sean Connery, whom he had killed, and Eliot Ness chucks him off a roof, killing him. And maybe this is a small thing, but I find this completely bizarre.
See, the real Frank Nitti didn’t die during the Capone tax investigation. Far from it! He was convicted alongside his boss, but only served a short sentence. Nitti eventually wound up becoming the nominal head, or at least the face, of his criminal organisation. He died in 1943 — in fact, he killed himself, terrified at the thought of going back to prison (Nitti had severe claustrophobia).
So why the hell kill him in the film? It adds something to the story, I guess, but having him be called “Frank Nitti” doesn’t — he doesn’t really resemble the historical Nitti, and it’s not like Nitti is really famous. No one’s going to be all “oooh! Frank Nitti!” in a movie that’s already about Al Capone.
You’ll be surprised to learn there weren’t all those shootouts either, I’m sure.