Late night. A quiet bridge. Ness and Malone meet for the first time.
A few weeks back, I put the call out on Twitter for some suggestions for the Great Scene series. Got a LOT of responses including this one:
Movie: The Untouchables (1987), screenplay by David Mamet
IMDb plot summary: AL CAPONE. He ruled Chicago with absolute power. No one could touch him. No one could stop him. — Until Eliot Ness and a small force of men swore they’d bring him down.
Scene Setup: Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is put in charge of leading the crusade against Capone and his empire. Ness’ initial strategy is to conduct raids using a large squad of uniformed officers, but his first attempt fails when he breaks into a warehouse storing umbrellas (although it is implied by Capone’s reaction to the newspaper headline about Ness’ mistake that it was indeed a liquor warehouse, but his men had been tipped off by the corrupt police chief, Mike Dorsett (Richard Bradford).
Check out the dialogue:
Malone: Now, what do you think you're doing? You want to throw garbage? Throw it in the goddamn trash basket.
Ness: Don't you have more important things to do?Malone: Yeah. But I'm not doing them right now. Do we understand each other? [taps Ness' chest with billy club, hits metal] Okay, pal, why the Mohaska? Why are you packin' the gun?
Ness: I'm a Treasury Officer.
Malone: All right. Just remember what we talked about now.
Malone starts to amble away.
Ness: Hey... Wait a minute!Malone stops, turns. Ness advances on him.
Ness: What the hell kind of police do you have in this goddamn city? You just turned your back on an armed man.
Malone: You're a Treasury officer.
Ness: I just told you I was.
Malone: Who would claim to be that, who was not?
Ness: What's your name and unit?
Malone: [taps his badge with his billy club] It's right here. You got a beef? What is it?
Ness: How did you know l had a gun?Malone: What do you want, a free lesson in police work?
Malone: Are you okay, pal?
Ness: I had a rough day on the job.Ness turns and starts away.
Malone: Are you going home now?.
Ness: I was about to.
Malone: Well, then, you just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement. Make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.
This always struck me as David Mamet’s version of a ‘meet cute’. Apart from their intersection, the whole point of the scene is for Ness to get Malone’s name and department, so he can do this:
Great scenes, both of them.
If you have a suggestion for a Great Scene, don’t be shy, let me hear from you.
For more in the Great Scene series, go here.