The Friends Of Eddie Coyle is a Quentin Tarantino wet dream. It’s so hardboiled it should come with a pair of gumshoes, a cigarette smoked to the filter, whiskey by the bottle and a gun in the glove compartment.
Based on the novel of the same name by George V. Higgins the film tells of Eddie ‘Fingers’ Coyle (Robert Mitchum), an aging truck driver and gunrunner. But Eddie has a problem, he’s about to be sentenced for an illegal truck shipment he was caught with so turns to cop Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) in the hope of currying favour with the judge before he is sent to prison. Between gun dealer Jackie Brown (Steven Keats), a gang of bank robbers all in need of Eddie’s guns, and a Boston crime syndicate led by Dillion (Peter Boyle) Eddie might have got himself in deeper than he can handle.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a quintessential crime thriller. It is a wonderfully minimalistic ‘70s film that is often little more than tough guys sitting around chatting but never fails to seduce you into the grey world they occupy. Perfectly capturing Tom Wolfe’s theory that the ‘70s were the “Me” decade these characters have little loyalty to anyone but themselves. The result is a fascinating insight into what makes these men tick.
Director Peter Yates, no stranger to slick and cool thrillers having directed Steve McQueen in Bullet, handles everything with a stilted framing, allowing his middle-aged actors to fill the screen with their sheer presence and power. While there is only really one scene of genuine action on offer the film bristles with tension from start to finish. There is a sense of foreboding in every scene. Recall opening Tarantino scenes from such films as Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds and you are somewhere close to understanding what is captured in nearly every scene of The Friends Of Eddie Coyle.
Essential to this is Robert Mitchum’s central performance. As Eddie he brings a sense of gravel and hangdog desperation. It’s actors like this that bring vibrancy to the character, on the outside there’s a pride, an unwavering sense of who he is in the world but his actions speak louder and by the film’s climax you wonder if Eddie might not be his own worse enemy.
A film so rich in character it could fill ten modern day films, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle brings effortless cool and drama to every second of its running time.