The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

Eddie Coyle is in many respects an unsympathetic character, a cornered man desperate to avoid another prison term and prepared to inform on his ‘friends’ to do so. The word friends in the title is certainly ironic as almost everyone involved in the story betrays one another. The feds are no exception as they betray their informers as well as turning a blind eye to crimes committed by them (even against each other). It’s a bleak film with no sign of redemption or hope.

Eddie Coyle has no friends

The writer of the original book on which this is based. George V Higgins, was both a prosecutor and defence attorney in America. He took on some prominent cases. This included defending both Eldridge Cleaver (Black Panthers) and G. Gordon Liddy (Watergate). So he knew his stuff when he described the underworld.

Robert Mitchum, in the twilight of his career, gives arguably his best performance. It’s very understated and believable. It’s said that he met a number of Boston gangsters while researching his role as Eddie. It’s also said that he was warned off meeting Whitey Bulger the notorious Boston crime boss later revealed to have also been an FBI informant. Richard Jordan is great as the unapologetically cynical ATF man Dave Foley. At one point Eddie says, “I shoulda known better than to trust a cop. My own God-damned mother could have told me that.” Foley simply replies “Everyone oughta listen to his mother.” Helena Carroll
as Eddie’s wife Shelia gets very little screentime but uses it very well.

Although the film centres around the Boston underworld and bank robbers some of the obvious features of an action thriller that could’ve been followed, and would probably have made it even more popular at the time, we’re not. I think it’s a better film for that. It’s that which gives it a cult edge.

There’s a kind of noir desperation about the whole film. It’s a harsh world. Eddie can’t even support his family despite his crimes. For him crime certainly isn’t paying well. It’s probably very realistic. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary or if you’re a fan of Robert Mitchum (it’s one of his best films) this is a film to watch.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Cast
Robert Mitchum as Eddie Coyle
Peter Boyle as Dillon
Richard Jordan as Dave Foley
Steven Keats as Jackie Brown
Alex Rocco as Jimmy Scalise
Joe Santos as Artie Van
Mitchell Ryan as Waters
Helena Carroll as Sheila Coyle
Jack Kehoe as The Beard
Margaret Ladd as Andrea
James Tolkan as The Man’s Contact Man
Peter MacLean as Partridge

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