World-weary and living hand to mouth, Coyle works on the sidelines of the seedy Boston underworld just to make ends meet. In one of the best performances of his legendary career, Robert Mitchum plays small-time gunrunner Eddie “Fingers” Coyle in Peter Yates’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
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Timeless at its world-weary depths, exquisitely dated on its squalid surface, Yates' Coyle cribs whole pages right out of Higgins' novel, itself very nearly a script. "What dialogue!" blurbed Mailer on the back of the book -- it applies with equal wonder here. I prefer Higgins' ending, and feel mixed about "have a nice day," but can only love these performances of wounded fools and players in covetable sweaters.
Archetype 70's crime film almost plays like an episode of "Columbo" in its style, pacing, and especially the music. What makes this so different is Mitchum's performance, world-weary and empty; I wish Bresson could have directed this film instead of Yates. 70's film staple Peter Boyle is the perfect counterweight to Mitchum, and Alex Rocco ("Moe Green" in "The Godfather), also perfectly cast. Hauntingly bleak.
Mitcham excels as the low-level criminal turned informer, but when the great man is offscreen events seem inconsequential. Like Coyle, the film is torn between the romance and reality of the underworld, and the rather meek in-between result leaves me wanting bravura and brutality; instead there's a bullet through the car window, and no blood.
Screen EDDIE COYLE with THE FRENCH CONNECTION if you want to shame every single "serious" cops & robbers drama made in the last 35 years. It doesn't get any more street. Mitchum gives one of his best performances: reserved, resigned, earning the world-weariness etched in the lines of his face.
Seventies noir that owes much of the austerity and realism to the cold city of Boston as well as to the the french crime thrillers of Jean Pierre Melville mostly to the superb "Le Doulos" as the character study of a man moving between two factions. The street prose of writer George Higgins, and Peter Yates' minimalist direction are the stronger points of this notable film