Wednesday 3 June 2020
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In our continuing series of 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams, we look at Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Racing driver turned eclectic director, Peter Yates’ 1973 crime drama is a “schl-epic of lowlife degenerate criminality” (me). Eddie ‘Fingers’ Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is a low-level criminal fencing guns to a team of bank robbers, but he has a sentencing hearing coming up and to get the law off his back is considering fielding information to an agent (Robert Jordan). 

Based on a novel by George V. Higgins (who also provided the inspiration for Andrew Dominik’s much underrated Killing Them Softly), the characters are unheroic, small minded, treacherous petty criminals who turn to crime out of necessity or failure. Their world is brutal and rife with betrayal, but also utterly credible.

The bank robberies are played out as a studied procedure, underwritten by nerves and panic; the cops are despicable and immoral and everyone looks tired. Even so, Victor Kemper shoots Boston in the Autumn with an eye for beauty in the Hopper-esque diners, the supermarket car parks, or down by the river. 

The supporting cast – in particular a young Peter Boyle – are superb, but it is Robert Mitchum as Eddie who seals the deal. No Hollywood star turn, he. Mitchum was a one time novelist, who had little time for acting, and he has a writer’s eye for detail and a consistent contempt for glamour. His Eddie is drab and defeated and desperate and feels utterly true. When he complains to a confederate of how he got his fingers broken – ‘hurt like a bastard’ – you feel for him in more ways than one. His is the portrait of a small time crook in the last days before the water closes over his head. It is grimly perfect and deserves to be seen before you too disappear into the void.  

Please note Peter Yates also directed Krull!

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

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