“That’s how you get Capone!” Looking back at Sean Connery’s greatest performance

Sean Connery was a towering talent who knew when to walk away from the movie game.

A Great Scot who left Hollywood nearly two decades ago, deciding to let the 90 or so film credits stands as his badge of artistic honor. And if you had a resume like Connery, why stick around and fill it with a bunch of nonsense (talking to you, Robert De Niro)? After 2003’s “A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” a misfire of an adventure film, Connery walked away.

Connery passed away this week, succumbing to an illness that those close to him said he was fighting for months. Surrounded by family and friends, Connery took his last breath at 90 years of age. As film fans and actors and creators from Hollywood pay their respects, I wanted to talk about my favorite performance from the Scottish acting legend.

It was Jim Malone in “The Untouchables,” the 1987 film that pitted him and a few other badges (Kevin Costner’s Elliott Ness among them) against the notorious Al Capone (De Niro!). It was the role that won him his only Academy Award, a Best Supporting Actor trophy for a titanic performance. While everybody drools over his work as James Bond in a series of films-for good measure, he was terrific-I first thought about his masterful work as Malone.

Masterful for a few reasons. He stood out big time in a very talented ensemble that included Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson, and the second best performance wasn’t even in the same building. It wasn’t just the accent, clothing, or the way he carried himself. The “that’s how you get Capone” speech still throttles the film soul, but it was the ability of Connery to produce a wholly authentic character that still amazes me.

Few movies make me cry. I lose it at the end of Brian De Palma’s film. When Costner’s Ness takes out that cufflink that Malone gave him before he died, the swelling of the film score and that picture posted above cuts right through. You only cry about a fictional character dying in a movie or television show if that actor played that part to the tilt. They make you believe in that creation, and an unbreakable connection is formed.

I remember watching “The Untouchables” for what could have been the tenth time many, many years ago. My brother and I were watching it as teenagers, and halfway through Bryan fell asleep.  I stayed awake and by the cufflink scene, one could say I was an emotional wreck. “So much violence,” Ness utters as he puts the chain away.

So much power could have been said about Connery’s performance. The old school cop who would stop at nothing to get Capone. The guy who wrestled Ness and other officers together to do the right thing. Connery made Malone come alive. That makes a bigger dent to me than his take on a stylish spy with a dry wit for the ages.

I wanted to know Malone more than I wanted to hang with his Bond.

Few actors have a film resume like Connery’s collection of work. A greatest hits list that started in 1954 and provided movie fans with treasures that should last for decades and generations to come. Great actors don’t really die. They just go reside in the past for good, resting with their tallest and most meaningful work. Heck, I will now pronounce “Junior!” exactly like Connery for good.

The towering talents have that kind of effect on viewers. The minute their eyes and words hit you. For me, “The Untouchables” stands as one of the best movies of all time. It doesn’t get there without Connery’s Oscar-winning performance.

Rest in legendary peace, Sir Sean Connery.

One thought on ““That’s how you get Capone!” Looking back at Sean Connery’s greatest performance

  1. I wrote a post on my five favorite Connery roles and this one wasn’t listed but not because I didn’t think it was one of his best performances but because it had been so long since seeing it and it was only once so… One thing I do remember about it was how heartbroken I was at the end of it when what happened happened (don’t want to give away spoilers for those who haven’t seen it.) Good write-up on an iconic film star; several valid insights. Just wondering, have you seen him in “Zardoz”?

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