The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

16 06 2009

Couldn’t really ask much more out of this simple, downplayed, slice-of-life 70s crime drama. It’s no Mikey and Nicky (although incidentally enough, the films feature the photography of the same cinematographer) and it’s probably not even as great as Cutter’s Way but it is a very solid, enjoyable, well-executed piece of rather austere entertainment. It looks really good and nearly every performance is brilliant. If there’s anything “wrong” exactly with the film, it’s that it is simply too downplayed, but I can’t really criticize a film for accomplishing what it sets out to be. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is definitely worth at least one viewing.

The big selling point here is the presence of Robert Mitchum in one of his later performances. I can’t quite cosign the statement that this is his best performance, but I can agree that it is one of his most nuanced. He seems to do very little actual “acting” here, and the same can be said about the rest of the cast, which includes Peter Boyle, perhaps most famous for his performance as Wizard in Taxi Driver. Like Scorsese’s much more canonized film, director Peter Yates is able to keep his characters and their otherwise dramatic interactions (mostly bank robberies) seem natural and not sensational.

A perfect example of Yates’ intrusive-less camera comes in the second bank robbery of the film, in which one of the bank’s tellers attempts to sound an alarm. He does so, and his movement is immediately recognized by the bandits. He responds in a confusing yet retrospectively accurate manner with “I just uh, pushed the alarm.” He is immediately shot and killed, but there is no music swinging the audience’s attention to the tragedy at hand. Instead, the film’s few action sequences occur in a detached and observational manner.

Having said all that, I have to admit that some of the narrative details here aren’t entirely captivating. I liked that Yates never bothers to catch the audience up on the proceedings, let alone introduce his characters. Instead, we are thrown immediately into the underworld of small town crime. It’s a fascinating depiction, and it is extremely realistic, but it just doesn’t achieve anything mindblowing. Of course, it doesn’t really want to, but it’s never quite as low-key as Mikey & Nicky, a film which has a similar sparse narrative but at least is “about” something, i.e friendship. I suppose it could be argued that Yates is too trapped in the genre, but what he does within these conventions is quite impressive.



One response

17 06 2009
Jeff Duncanson

Nice write-up. Here’s the commentary that i did for Eddie Coyle a while back. (If you’re interested)

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