THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1973)
Directed by Peter Yates
With a prison sentence looming over his head, small time crook Eddie Coyle must choose between snitching on his bank robbing and gun supplying associates or facing a stretch inside.
Crime drama THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE tells the story of Eddie Coyle, a man with a criminal history who is once again facing jail. Despite this, he continues to partake in shady deals such as acquiring guns for his “friend” Jimmy Scalise who’s been robbing local banks with his crew. With his latest offence of being caught driving a van full of drugs, Eddie will do anything to avoid being sent down. Speaking to police officer Dave Foley, Eddie pleads for a good word to put in for him with the judge of New Hampshire who’s handling his case, but Dave wants something in return…
There’s not really much to the film from a narrative point of view. A bunch of criminals screwing each other over. Nothing new here, I hear you cry. Except this understated drama features the acting chops of Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Alex Rocco, Richard Jordan and others who’s low-key yet strong character performances are what make this film so damn watchable.
Eddie, although a scumbag, is rather likable and it’s clear he’s had his fair share of dealings over the years. His battered hands with an extra set of knuckles are living proof of this. In his early 50’s, he knows prison will finish him off and hates the idea of his wife and kids being on welfare with him inside. However, grassing on his associates could be a step too far, especially if he doesn’t get off with the prison sentence or isn’t relocated with a new identity far away from his current location of Boston. Robert Mitchum is perfectly cast as the desperate old gun runner who’s out to better himself but wise enough to know not to cross anyone with power and influence.
Steven Keats is also a standout as gun supplier Jackie Brown. He’s a tad wet behind the ears but knows enough to deal with a pair of jokers who want to get their hands on some machine guns. Weapons as hot as these means Brown has to be careful… real careful.
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE is very much centred on the characters and their relationships, detailing how one weak link can affect an entire chain and how much people around you can and can’t be trusted when their own life, including their family and livelihood, is threatened. The realism of how the events unfold is what draws the viewer in as we get an authentic taste of what the criminal world is like, even if these are more small time crooks than we’re used to seeing in movies. The slow-burn story which unfolds depicts the grim reality of what life would have been like during that particular time and place unlike these modern, glitzy re-imaginings which often glamourise criminality.
Eureka Entertainment have brought THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE to DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK for the first time in their dual format release which also includes an on-stage interview at over an hour long with the film’s director Peter Yates, a shorter interview with film critic Glenn Kenny and a 44 page booklet featuring a fascinating new essay on the film and an extensive interview with Peter Yates.
Hard-hitting and poignant at times, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE is about as real as it gets.