Saturday, November 28, 2009

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yous to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone!”

I have just recently watched The Untouchables for the first time. The movie came out ten days before I was born in 1987, about twenty-two years ago. The movie presents Chicago during Al Capone’s reign when prohibition was instate and distributing alcohol was a good way to make some money. The quote mentioned is Sean Connery’s Jim Malone talking to Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness. Malone is an old time Chicago cop while Ness works for the government as a prohibition agent. Robert De Niro plays Al Capone. The quote is about out doing the enemy. Going to further extremes to claim the victory. It is vengeance and redemption. It is what one must do to survive in their Chicago. For Capone, his friends and enemies must watch out for this kind of living.

The movie really pushes this idea of the “Chicago Way.” There is this two sidedness to the main characters; one side is the Chicago side - a side that Nelsen Algren describes in his Chicago City on the Make. This Chicago side is doing what you got to do to get your way. Eliot Ness and Malone form a small hit squad in order to disrupt Capone’s illegal liquor business. They know that what they are doing is dangerous, but persist in trying to take down Capone. Ness’s untouchables soon find out how far Capone’s reach is into their world. They begin their mission with four men, and in the end two are left standing. Ness must hide his family during the whole process, otherwise Capone will send out his own hit squad for them. Ness refuses to be intimidated by Capone’s tactics, and so Ness pushes harder and takes out another one of Capone’s liquor runners.

Capone, in front of the press, is calm and intelligent, but changes his behavior when the press isn’t around. After one of is liquor distributors is shut down, he becomes enraged at the man who was in charge. Capone waits untill he can deal with the man in front of everybody. He wants to teach everyone a lesson by being one scary bastard. So during a big dinner, with what I am guessing is all his top men, he starts talking about baseball, while walking around with a nice wooden bat. Capone says, “a man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms, enthusiasms... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork... Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins.” Then his men shout, “Team!” Right when Capone knows he has every man in full cooperation and under his spell, he beats the man who was in charge of the distributor that was busted. He swings his bat into the man’s skull numerous times until the man’s blood has splattered on to everybody around that table. That’s Chicago business.

Supposedly the real Al Capone did something like this, except it was two men that were at his table, and the reason he killed them was because he heard they were plotting to kill him and take over the business. In that story, he bludgeons them to death and them shoots them both in the head. It has also been said that it wasn’t even Capone who did this, but his hitman, Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo.

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