The Friends of Eddie Coyle – Peter Yates’ sublime adaptation of George V. Higgins’ massively influential debut novel of the same name that’d established “Boston Crime” as a sub-genre – felt like Edward Hopper meets Jean-Pierre Melville in the way it was soaked in urban desolation, existential anguish, deep sighs of melancholy and fatalism, poetic sparseness, and moody evocation of Boston’s working-class criminals. One such member of that subaltern community is Eddie “Fingers” Coyle (Robert Mitchum), who got his moniker thanks to a knuckle-breaking gangland punishment that he’d once received, and which he recounted at the film’s beginning with the kind of dry, deadpan, digressive and world-weary note that formed a discernible identifier of the film in general and Mitchum’s acting masterclass in particular. A low-level, middle-aged gunrunner who lives with his family in a cramped house, and essentially just about making ends meet and staying alive, he’s presently acting as an intermediary between the smug Jimmy (Alex Rocco) who’s leading a team of audacious bank robbers and the fidgety Jackie Brown (Steven Keats) – the name that’d form the title of Tarantino’s most unheralded work – a deceptively smart gun-supplier in a kitschy automobile. He’s also facing a lengthy jailtime which he’s desperate to avoid, and hence becomes a stoolie – albeit reluctantly, as he’s always been a stand-up guy who never lets his “friends” down – for a cop (Richard Jordan). The film’s most striking aspect – along with its vivid picturization of lonely urban spaces, gritty dialogues, tense set-pieces and magnificent jazz score by Dave Grusin – was that Mitchum, despite his iconic swagger, never overshadowed the ensemble cast, including a brilliant Peter Boyle as Dillon, a matter-of-fact enforcer masquerading as an impassive bartender.
p.s. My earlier review of this film can be found here.
Director: Peter Yates
Genre: Crime/Crime Drama/Crime Thriller/Urban Drama