|Rating: The Good – 85.7
Duration: 102 mins
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a forgotten gem of the crime genre starring Robert Mitchum in his finest role from the later stage of his career. As the title character, he plays a wearisome small time thief forced by a hot shot young cop to inform on the criminals he works with in return for a reduction on his sentence for a recent conviction. “Eddie Fingers” has become largely philosophical about the world he lives in and the rules which everybody needs to obey in order to get by but he refuses to go to prison at his age and leave his family to fend for themselves. Richard Jordan is the ambitious cop who equally understands the dark underworld Eddie hails from and even shows some compassion for his stool pigeon. However, to him, the bust comes first. Peter Boyle is the truly despicable hit man who himself is under that same cop’s thumb but is far more shrewd and treacherous in how he makes his deals.
With such talent in front of the camera, it should be no surprise that one of the major strengths of this film is the acting. Boyle is perfectly sinister and will make your skin crawl. Jordan proves yet again what a vast under-tapped talent he was and his scenes easily prove the most enjoyable. He’s sharp and honest up until a point. But he’s also human and there’s a well structured sting operation in which he shows all the adrenaline and fear which go hand in hand with that type of work. Mitchum was probably better here than in any other film since the height of his popularity and he lays his character’s emotions bare for all to see. It’s another brave performance from a man who made his career playing riskier roles but it’s a more touching turn than anything else he did with the exception of Out of the Past.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is steeped in gritty authenticity as the always underrated Peter Yates shot on location in Boston, in flat lighting, and was generally happy to let the script and actors dominate the feel of every scene. It proved a wise decision too because Paul Monash’s script (adapted from George V. Higgins novel) is superb and way ahead of its time. Capturing the straight shooting perspective of the street and juicing it up with slick dialogue, the likes of which, Michael Mann would salivate over, it must surely rank as one of the best crime screenplays. The characters are entirely believable (and in some cases disturbingly so) and each is defined by a distinct lack of glamour. Coyle himself, is in many ways a run of the mill working man married to a normal looking woman. His aspirations are modest and there’s no super street skill bubbling under the surface like with so many characters today (no “best of the best of the best” here). There’s a degree of street wisdom but nothing that will prompt anything spectacular. There are some well conceived bank robbery sequences run by more clever criminals and they do the job of impressing the audience (those familiar with Ben Affleck’s The Town will see a couple of key similarities between their robberies and those which feature here).
The Friends of Eddie Coyle resists all temptations to give a popcorn audience what they want and instead, it is satisfied to tell an honest story about an interesting central character. At first blush, this might seem like a modest ambition but because of its degree of unconventionality, the audience might find it rather shocking. The final 10 minutes in particular will keep you guessing right up until the end and while the popcorn brigade will be dissatisfied, there are rich rewards for true cinephiles.© Copyright 2013 Derek D, All rights Reserved. Written For: movieshrink.com