Directed by Peter Yates
United States, 103 minutes
Starring Robert Mitchum, Perter Boyle, Alex Rocco
I was born in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1989. My parents and uncles grew up in the Boston of the 1960s and early 1970s. Why am I telling you this? Peter Yates’s 1973 film, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a film that gives me an idea of the Boston that they saw. Sure, my family wasn’t in the drugs and gun-running business, but Yates gives the viewer an idea of what the Boston area was like in the early ’70s without romanticizing it. This film is true-to-life and gritty beyond gritty, filmed on location in areas where crimes like those in the film happened every day.
Criterion’s decision to release this film is rather surprising. It isn’t great, in fact, aside from Robert Mitchum’s incredible headlining performance as Eddie Coyle, there isn’t much here. Story-wise, it follows a path that is rather predictable, but the screenplay’s slow, deliberate pacing keeps it interesting. The film is also very talky, something that apparently comes from George V. Higgins’s novel, which is relies on dialog rather than a narrator. The action in Eddie Coyle comes from the talking and aside from the two expertly-crafted bank heists, there is very little true action, which really sets it in its own category of crime films.
Paramount never released the film on DVD before Criterion did early last year. Their release is surprisingly slim, including just a newly-recorded Yates commentary and a slim stills gallery (mostly of Mitchum schmoozing with girls and stills of deleted sequences). However, the amazing 42-page booklet more than makes up for it. Kent Jones supplies a slim critical essay on the film, but also included is a fantastic piece of journalism: a 1973 on-set profile of Robert Mitchum from Rolling Stone. It goes incredibly in-depth, making up for the lack of a documentary on Mitchum. (Unfortunately, there will not be one on The Night of the Hunter either, with those supplements mostly focusing on Charles Laughton.) Still, it’s disappointing that they couldn’t find any other contemporary features or at least a trailer.
The Verdict: The Friends of Eddie Coyle is not an essential film by any stretch, but if you are interested in seeing a great performance by Robert Mitchum or just have a general interest in 1970s crime dramas, this is one to get. Criterion’s features are disappointing, but as a lower-tier release, it’s a good price.