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Great Character Moments: Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

e6626d779a3bf8b41685c87c3d120ce9Character: Jimmy Malone

Actor: Sean Connery

Film: The Untouchables

Role: A proud Irish-American and veteran cop in Chicago who grows tired of the corruption and organized crime, and joins forces with federal agent Elliot Ness.

Jimmy Malone has been on the force for more than forty years, seeing his beloved Chicago fall further and further into dark times as political corruption and mafia bosses keep a strangle hold on the people and businesses. When Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is assigned to stop the rampant supply of illegal liquor flowing into the city, he puts Malone on his staff and along with two other not-influenced-by-police-payoff-and-profiteering agents, and form what the press calls, “The Untouchables,” a group of men willing to do anything to put the kingpin of all the illegal activity, Al Capone (Robert De Niro), behind bars.

Andy Garcia, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith (Paramount Pictures)
Andy Garcia, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith (Paramount Pictures)

The Moment: Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) an agent and accountant on the team discovers that they might be able to stop Capone through money instead of violence. Capone has not been paying his income tax and so he suggests they try and build a case against him, but they need evidence. Ness and his family are harassed, even threatened by Capone, and Ness moves them out of the city. A corrupt city official attempts to bribe him, but this only serves to embolden Ness’s efforts. On a tip that a liquor shipment is coming across the Canadian border, “The Untouchables” head north and ambush the drivers, killing several of the gangsters and capturing one of Capone’s bookkeepers. Ness and his men and a Canadian Mountie bring him into a cabin near the ambush and drill him for answers, but he won’t give a word up. Malone is fired up, already a hot-tempered bull of a man, he gets rough and tosses the smaller, handcuffed man about, and punches him square in the face. Ness, pulls the angry Irishman off and shoves him out of the room and onto the front porch as the injured gangster spews a stream of profanity. Outside, Malone grabs another henchman and puts him against a window in full view of the others and with a pistol in the man’s mouth demands answers. When none comes, he fires and a spray of crimson crosses the room, terrifying the bookkeeper who quickly changes his mind and agrees to translate the ledger in his possession. What he doesn’t know is that the man Malone shot was already dead.

Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone, far right.(Paramount Pictures)
Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone, far right.(Paramount Pictures)

Why It Matters: Earlier, when Malone was first meeting Ness about taking down Capone, they sat in a church pew and Malone told him there was only one way to go after the gangster: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” He says that’s the Chicago way. Ness is hesitant at first but agrees. He doesn’t realize the implications of that until here in Canada when they interrogate the bookkeeper and Malone grows impatient. Malone gets rough and Ness unwittingly gives it more weight by trying to pull the furious Malone off the crook. This allows Malone to go one step further and use the already dead mobster as a prop to deceive the shaking henchman and get him to break. When Ness “gets it” (since he knows the body is already dead) he understands and embraces it, so much so that when the Mountie protests the Americans’s methods, Ness says to him, “Well, you’re not from Chicago,” echoing Malone’s sentiment and otherwise telling his partner that he is all in. Malone simply smiles. It’s a great character moment.



Brian De Palma


Oscar Fraley (suggested by book), Eliot Ness(suggested by book), 1 more credit »

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