The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

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This isn’t a monster flick, but I’m commenting on this gem because Robert Mitchum is one of my favorite actors, and as Eddie “Fingers” Coyle he gave one of the finest performances of his lifetime. In fact, Mitchum carries this film and elevates “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (Dir. Peter Yates, 1973) to be one of the finest films on organized crime ever made. This isn’t a heist film -there’s no elaborate story twists or red herrings. There’s not a whole lot of action. It’s low key and there is barely any score. The film is set in the seedy crime underworld of Boston. This isn’t “Rififi” (1955) -the robberies are peripheral to the story. This is a character study about worn out two-bit gun broker and driver Eddie Coyle.

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We learn early on that Eddie’s been around. He got his fingers busted up (“Hurt like a bastard”) for peddling traceable firearms. We also learn that Eddie’s scheduled to do 2 or 3 years for running stolen Canadian whiskey and he’s married to a very average Irish woman and has three kids. Eddie’s not going down again, so he decides to rat out his friends in an attempt to negotiate a bargain with a creepy treasury agent (played to the hilt by Richard Jordan).

Mitchum is perfectly cast (earlier in his career he played a bootlegger and runner in “Thunder Road” (1958)). He’s a tough customer, but the viewer senses he’s in over his head. Like “Goodfellas” (1990), this film is filled with colorful characters. These are the “friends of Eddie Coyle.” Gun dealers, stick-up men, drivers, and worse. Peter Boyle plays a despicable grease-ball hitman. His performance is also stellar.

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“Eddie Coyle” is a well-written, perfectly acted, gritty, urban feature. The on-location photography around Boston and Sharon, Pennsylvania contribute to the seedy feel of the production. It reminds me a bit of “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” (1974), in feel, and “The French Connection” (1971). However, this film may be better due to Mitchum’s believable and poignant performance. This review was based off a sharp, anamorphic Criterion DVD print. This is a minor classic and definitely worth a look.

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2 Responses to “The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)”

  1. Peter Yates just died…. It’s a shame. I really enjoyed this and The Dresser (1983). Have you seen Yate’s Bullitt (1968)?

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