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  The Untouchables (1987)
Charles Martin Smith, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia; Photo courtesy of Paramount/
The Kobal Collection

Chicago in 1930: A time of prohibition, elegant autos and, according to "The Untouchables," gangsters in Armani suits.

This version of mob boss Al Capone's vicious reign and the efforts of a select group of Treasury Department agents to bring him down is a stylish blend of history and dramatic license.

The cast boasts three Oscar winners: Robert De Niro (best actor, "Raging Bull") as Capone; Kevin Costner, (director/producer, "Dances With Wolves") as Eliot Ness; and Sean Connery, who snagged his best supporting actor statue as Ness' streetwise lieutenant Jim Malone.

Plenty of shootouts, explosions and melodramatic moments emphasize the G-men's incorruptibility and Capone's brutality. But the film's most frightening scene may well be the one in which the Untouchables' tax accountant brandishes a Tommy gun.


Let's be honest. A tax investigator is plenty scary when he's armed only with an adding machine. And most of us run a much bigger risk of being audited than encountering violent crime.

Capone certainly should have worried a bit more about his accountant's creative bookkeeping. In the vast array of firepower available to Ness and crew, their strongest weapon was the tax code. The mobster was convicted on tax evasion charges ($1.3 million in unreported income over three years) and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was released after 7.5 years, but did pay $215,000 in back taxes plus almost $58,000 in fines and court costs.

Capone's fate makes the money message of "The Untouchables" crystal clear: Certainly take every legitimate tax break you can, but don't play too fast and loose. The kinder, gentler IRS days are waning, and Uncle Sam will ultimately get his due.

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