Director Peter Yates’ 1973 film, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle is the type of movie that perfectly sums up the 1970s on a cinematic level. Robert Mitchum plays the titular Eddie Coyle, an ageing low level crook caught-up in a Boston gun-running racket. Eddie is eager to get out of the game but an ATF agent (Richard Jordan) pulls him back in, making him turn informer. You know from the start that things aren’t going to end well for Eddie.
Rich on grit and reality, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle has become one of the go-to movies for filmmakers eager to create a criminal world on the screen and over the years Peter Yates’ film has been an inspiration to everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Ben Affleck. Tarantino named the title character of Jackie Brown after one of the film’s protagonists, making a change from Jackie Burke in Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch. Meanwhile, Affleck’s Boston roots mean that Eddie Coyle is in his movie DNA and his 2010 film The Town riffs heavily on the film.
Peter Yates was no stranger to the crime genre having already directed the likes of Bullitt and The Hot Rock, but this is something different. Like those movies, it might have a bonafide Hollywood star but Mitchum was in the twilight of his career, whereas the stars of the aforementioned (Steve McQueen and Robert Redford) were in their prime. Mitchum’s Coyle is a man broken by the system and he just wants to get by, but chance and circumstance have other plans. This is one of Mitchum’s great roles and it’s fascinating to see how a star of the studio era was able to make such an impact on every different type of Hollywood.
One of the classic ‘70s crime movies, The Friends of Eddie Coyle still packs a powerful punch 43 years after it was first released. This is a hefty drama that doesn’t pull any punches and it stands as a pivotal moment in an important decade in Hollywood’s history.