Friday, 22 January 2016

the friends of eddie coyle

the friends of eddie coyle is an ensemble crime drama about a small criminal network and the series of events leading up to their downfall. the film primarily focuses on eddie coyle (robert mitchum) who is supplying guns for his bank robber friends whilst also feeding information to the police in the hope of turning over an upcoming prison sentence so he can spend time with his kids. it’s clear from the opening minutes that things aren’t going to work out too well for anyone in this story.

the first thing that struck me about the friends of eddie coyle is that it kind of feels like a tarantino film before there was such a thing. by that i mean that the film is mostly made up of lengthy dialogue scenes in which character is revealed through stories and monologues. there’s a kind of authenticity to the lives and activities of these criminals that comes through the dialogue and the performances. and there’s the swearing, which seems so unexpected in a film from 1973 that every ‘fuck’ shocks like a gunshot.

it’s a tough watch at times because it’s hard to know who to sympathise with. eddie comes across as a sympathetic character in that we see his family and his actions to avoid jail are driven by them, but as every character he talks to points out he committed a crime and should’ve thought about the consequences before he did it. the bank robbers spend much of the film wearing rather creepy masks and comes across as pretty terrifying individuals overall. the police detective working with the criminals doesn’t really have many endearing qualities either and at times comes across as playing a much more sinister game than the criminals he’s trying to catch. then there’s a young gun supplier and peter boyle as a well-connected bartender, but neither of them come off particularly well. and somehow, in this film where we don’t care about anyone, director peter yates makes us care about what happens.

yates is a really interesting filmmaker, as demonstrated by a fascinating archive interview on the blu-ray. while my favourite of his films is the fantasy movie krull, he’s most famous for directing the steve mcqueen cop film bullitt, which makes for an interesting comparison to this film. bullitt is a film of long silences, punctuated by moments of intense action. the friends of eddie coyle reverses that, because while there are brief moments of silent tension the film is much more concerned with the dialogue in between. there’s a moment where one of the characters is about to be arrested in a car park and decides to make a break for it, and when the sound of the engines kicked in i thought we were going to be treated to a bullitt style chase. instead, he’s caught before he leaves. this isn't a film that glamorises the lives of criminals or the men trying to catch them, it simply shows us the cold, hard reality.

the performances in this film are excellent all round. mitchum is obviously brilliant as a washed-up smalltime hoodlum who just wants out of the business. peter boyle is also great as the guy connecting all the characters, but the real standout performance for me was richard jordan as the police detective playing all the characters off against each other. he plays the character with the confidence of a man who knows exactly what he’s doing and has worked out all the consequences for everyone involved in his head to the point that nothing phases him. but then there’s a moment when he’s taking down the gun supplier where all the confidence suddenly just drops away. it’s not in the dialogue, just in his face, but it lets the audience know that what he’s doing is incredibly dangerous and he knows it is.

the friends of eddie coyle is a really interesting film and feels refreshingly different to most entries in the crime genre even by today’s standards. there’s an authenticity and tension in this film that you just don’t see in most crime films, and while that makes it a cold, tough watch at times the end result is equally fascinating and sobering. the film certainly still holds up and aside from the typical seventies soundtrack it hasn’t really dated at all. definitely one to check out.

the friends of eddie coyle will be released in dual format (blu-ray and dvd) by eureka entertainment on 25 january 2016

1 comment:

  1. One of the best crime films ever made! Robert Mitchum's performance is truly haunting. One of his best since Out Of The Past. Really wonderful review. Glad to see it on here.