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The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

May 14, 2010

VERDICT:
9/10 Trust Issues

Man, that Robert Mitchum was one cool sonofabitch.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle is about an aging gunrunner with pals in low places who turn to him as their one-stop-shop for all their firearm needs as they run around town sticking up one small-time bank after another. But Eddie’s got a problem, a problem involving him doing time upstate, so he turns to a dirty cop to get him out of it in exchange for leads on a machine gun-smuggling hippie, but that might not be enough to get Eddie cleared without having him go full-out snitch.

Such are the dilemmas of being a blue-collar criminal in Boston. That kinda crap would never happen in New York.

This is one of those movies that’s unfortunately gone the way of the dinosaurs over the years, a movie that for some reason just doesn’t get made anymore in this world overrun by directors on speed who think swearing as loud as you can while waving around a gun as big as your torso makes your characters “badass”. Yeah, it’s a fossil and the only person you might recognize is the grandpa from Everybody Loves Raymond, but this, folks, is a refreshing trip back to the golden era.

See, Eddie Coyle is the antithesis of flashy. The characters are all working men that are entirely unbecoming despite their lines of expertise, it makes Boston in Winter look like the coldest, most average, un-Hollywood setting in the world and the whole damn cast looks and acts like they were picked out of a bar outside Fenway. A lot of the credit here goes to director Peter Yates and writer Paul Monash on this one, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more authentically ordinary movie without it being a documentary, and that’s exactly why it stands out.

The story’s also out of sight and it’s up there with some of the best stuff by Elmore Leonard. Took me a bit to figure out everyone’s role, how they were all connected and what exactly was going on at first, but keeping the audience out of the loop actually ends up working in its favor. It keeps you interested instead of frustrated and one of my favorite aspects of this whole thing was the awesome time I had putting all the pieces together.

And for a movie that I was expecting to have some serious down time in between heists, there’s really none to be found. The great thing about this script is that all the scenes where guys are just talking to each other are as compelling as a group of guys robbing a bank, and that’s something else. This isn’t Tarantino dialogue, there’s no drawn-out speeches that no one in their right mind could make up on the spot (not to say that I don’t love Tarantino-speak or anything), it’s simply realistic, badass men having realistic, badass conversations at normal speaking levels, and I. just. love. that.

But like I said, Robert Mitchum plays Eddie “Fingers” Coyle, and the dude makes it look painfully easy. Mitchum’s always been one hard mother effer, but the reason Eddie steals the show is that it’s like he’s not even trying, like he’s gone through so much shit in life that he doesn’t have time mince words or strain himself trying to act tough when it just comes natural. He’s a man who gets to the point and makes damn sure you’re on the level before you try to bring him down to yours, and everyone learns right quick that a couple jewels of wisdom from Eddie go a damn long way.

Peter Boyle and Alex Rocco (Moe Green from The Godfather) are also great as Eddie’s “friends”, but Mitchum’s where it’s at.

The only thing that’s strange about this movie is its occasional funk soundtrack that sounds totally out of place in comparison to absolutely everything else, but that’s easy enough to overlook. Wish there wasn’t any music at all though, seems more fitting for a group of guys that definitely don’t listen to funk.

Look, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is just a great, legit time capsule back to a period when film makers knew a thing or two about the weight of presence rather than the weight of screaming. It’s a no-frills ride, it’s a movie that makes me blind with confusion as to why it ever went out of style and it’s a fantastic testament to one of the great truths in this world: “Life’s hard, man, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

Write that one down, kiddies, ’cause you sure as hell ain’t gonna learn that from Michael Bay.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2010 1:35 am

    From the director of Krull! All kidding aside, this sounds awesome and exactly like the type of movie I love. I’ll have to drop it in the queue.

    • May 14, 2010 8:55 am

      You check this out and I’ll check out Krull. Totally forgot about the movie that invented the glaive.

    • May 14, 2010 10:22 am

      This dude also directed “Bullit” and “Breaking Away.” I haven’t seen either yet, but hear great things about both. Yates musta been a pretty legit director back in the day.

      • May 14, 2010 10:23 am

        Been meaning to watch Bullitt for a while now, but Breaking Away is one of my favorites. AWESOME movie. Apparently the guy was no joke.

  2. May 14, 2010 8:48 am

    This is a hot movie along with a hot review. I’ve always liked the Criterion DVD Cover Art. Glad you liked it! I’m waiting for your Wild Bunch review.

    And isn’t Mitchum just so fucking awesome?

    • May 14, 2010 8:53 am

      Yeah, the Criterion cover art is freakin’ awesome. They always have great covers. Wild Bunch has been on my queue for I think 20 years now, it’s about time I bumped it to the top spot.

      And yes, Mitchum is so fucking awesome. Thanks for reminding me about this one in the first place with your Criterion Collection post, would have been a while before I remembered about it.

      • May 14, 2010 12:05 pm

        Mitchum put up this awesome facade, always talking about how he just did movies for money, or to sleep with “broads” or to have enough money to score weed. The guy is just great. And I sure as shit know he didn’t make “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” for money, he saw something in that script, in that character and made it into something magnificent.

      • May 14, 2010 12:30 pm

        What a badass.

  3. May 14, 2010 10:14 am

    terrible title. sounds like a good movie though

    • May 14, 2010 10:20 am

      Haha, works more when you’re actually watching it. I actually hate when movies are just named after their main character like “Michael Clayton” or “Ross McG”, so I dig it when they at least mix it up with an extra word or two. Awesome movie either way.

  4. May 14, 2010 10:59 am

    I’m not really into doing awards, but I thought this one was pretty damn funny. Nominated you for it (you’ll probably only appreciate it if you watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). http://www.nextdoorcritic.com/2010/05/master-of-karate-and-friendship-award.html

    • May 14, 2010 11:10 am

      It took me a second to recognize the Night Man lyric, but oh yeah, I got it. Lol, thanks for the nom, much appreciated, man.

      • May 14, 2010 7:56 pm

        Another one of the best shows on television.

  5. May 14, 2010 8:42 pm

    if there ever is a movie called ‘Ross McG’, rest assured you will be in it AR

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