Director: Peter Yates
Release Date: 25 January 2016
Certificate 15 | Run Time 102 minutes
Genre: Crime / Drama Year| 1973| USA
Label: Eureka. Buy here.
Film Review: ★★★★★
It is often said about films in the gangster and crime genres that all of them glamorise criminality and criminals no matter how much filmmakers protest otherwise. Despite that, it is hard to deny that Peter Yates’s (Oscar-nominated director of crime classics Robbery and Bullitt) thriller The Friends of Eddie Coyle, adapted from the hardboiled novel by George V. Higgins and now out on bluray from Eureka, makes a pretty good fist at sucking any hint of glamour out of the lawless profession, until all that is left are shades of ashy gravel.
Set in the blue-collar Boston underworld in the 70s, the film features a superb turn from veteran actor Robert Mitchum as the titular character. Eddie Coyle is an ageing gunrunner who has used up all his nine lives and now is left hanging on by his last fingernail: hanging on to not only his dignity, but his very freedom. With a prison sentence already looming over his head as a result of being arrested driving a truck full of stolen liquor, Eddie spends most of the film bouncing between various shady contacts who he thinks can lever him out of this situation. It soon becomes clear though that these contacts are on opposite sides of the fence, and that Eddie is playing both sides. Flash gun-seller Jackie Brown (Steven Keats) is his supplier of high-end untraceable firearms, which Eddie arranges to sell on to the local bank robber crew led by the tough heist man Jimmy Scalise (Alex Rocco). But when not making these grubby deals for dirty bills, Eddie is talking to slick, cool undercover cop Floyd (Richard Jordan), aiming to shop the very gun seller and robbery crew he was dealing with only the previous night, in an increasingly desperate attempt to get his prison sentence expunged.
It can only really end one way for Eddie, so pathetically hopeless is his plan, but the path to his unheroic end is laced with deliciously hardboiled dialogue (the film opens with a great monologue by Mitchum about how he got his ‘second set of knuckles’ for screwing up), some atmospheric Boston locations, and a raft of truly outstanding supporting performances. There is not a bum note in any of the casting, right down to the smallest roles, everyone seems to be operating on all cylinders and delivering memorable, naturalistic performances which all leave the suggestion of the character having off-screen life. Aside from Mitchum, special note should be given to Peter Boyle (from Taxi Driver) as the dry, matter of fact mob hitman Dillon who doubles up as the local barkeep, Richard Jordan is also great as the ambitious cop Floyd, and Steven Keats as the loudmouth, overly-cocky gunrunner Jackie Brown is on fire every minute he is on screen.
The film presumably was shot to be grittily authentic, and despite the high-def Bluray transfer, the visuals display a fair bit of grain, and some evidence of celluloid artefacts remain. In terms of soundtrack: the original on-location sound recording with the use of only minimal ADR, again presumably a way of increasing the sense of authenticity, might mean viewers want to jack up the volume.
The Special Features are high quality and plentiful, as expected from Eureka. In particular the video essay from Glenn Kenny goes into great detail about the source material and process of adaptation, helping contextualise the film in both the genre and in terms of Mitchum’s career. The accompanying booklet is well presented, and contains an insightful essay which, combined with Kenny’s video introduction and the lengthy on stage interview with Yates from the 1990s, will leave you an expert in all things Eddie Coyle.
- Restored, high-definition digital transfer.
- Uncompressed monaural sound on the Blu-ray™.
- A new video appreciation of the film by critic Glenn Kenny.
- A 1996 career-spanning on-stage interview at the BFI with Peter Yates hosted by critic Derek Malcolm.
- 44-Page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Mike Sutton; an extensive interview with Yates, and archival images.
Dual Format Cat. No.| EKA70180
Dual Format Barcode| 5060000701807
Dual Format RRP £17.95
Release Date: 25 January 2016
Certificate 15 (TBC)
Run Time 102 minutes
OAR 1.85:1 OAR
Genre: Crime / Drama
Subtitles: ENGLISH SDH (Optional)