The highly underrated, low-key crime thriller The Friends of Eddie Coyle gets a much awaited home release in the UK for the very first time and looks better than ever, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment‘s Masters of Cinema series.
Directed by Oscar-nominated Peter Yates, best known for Bullitt, this film was one of my Dad’s personal favourites, making it all the more meaningful since he switched me on to so many genuinely great movies, many of which remain my own favourites to this day. This film was also released in 1973 which, if you pardon my bias, was a damn cool year for cinema. To name just a few, we had: Get Carter, Mean Streets, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Enter the Dragon, Westworld, The Day of the Jackal, Serpico, Dillinger, The Wicker Man, The Exorcist, Badlands and many more. See what I mean? This joins that roster of genuine greats and warrants discovery for true movie buffs today.
Based on the acclaimed novel by George V. Higgins and even said by Elmore Leonard to be the best crime novel ever written, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is set in urban Boston and follows an ageing gunrunner’s conflict at the prospect of jail time for a previous crime, or the chance of intervention through a friendly ATF agent at the cost of turning informant. Unable to face prison again, owing to his age and family-ties, he reluctantly agrees to turn on his associates, but paints himself into a very tricky corner as he continues trying to play both sides.
With a bleakness and gritty detail instantly recognisable from the gangster and film noir movies of the 1970’s, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a tough and uncompromising watch which doesn’t pander to any moral compass. It simply gives a ruthlessly realistic depiction of this world, a noted trait of Higgins’ work. Rarely violent, but shocking when those moments puncture the silence, it makes for a genuinely tense viewing experience.
Ageing Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum, better known from work like The Night of the Hunter and the original Cape Fear, fits the Eddie Coyle role perfectly as a kind of desperate, lonely but nonetheless villainous character who still simultaneously draws sympathy from the audience. It’s a tough balance but he maintains the multifaceted persona perfectly. Peter Boyle co-stars as the quietly menacing Dillon, another local gangster who also acts as a police informant, but unknown to one another. Richard Jordan, who later played opposite Mitchum in The Yakuza, is Dave Foley, the ATF agent with unorthodox methods who makes friends far and wide while employing any and all methods to do his job. The entire cast feels authentic and, on top of these performances, major credit goes to the source novel, naturalistic dialogue and Yates’ terse approach to visual storytelling.
Presented for the very first time on home video in the UK (crazy in itself) this Dual Format release offers both DVD and Blu-ray formats and a pristine picture and sound quality, while maintaining the grittiness of the original film. The Boston criminal underworld of the 1970’s has never looked more grim and this definitely works in the film’s favour. The new special edition presentation includes:
– Restored HD transfer
– Video appreciation by critic Glenn Kenny
– 1996 interview with Peter Yates hosted by critic Derek Malcolm
– Collectable booklet featuring an essay by critic Mike Sutton
As one of the seminal and surprisingly overlooked classic crime movies of the 1970’s, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is simply essential viewing for any serious cinephile or lover of classic American cinema. Influential, uncompromising, raw, honest and still bleak by today’s standards, it’s not a “feel good” film by any means, but builds as a slow burner before immersing you completely while the drama unfolds. Just as it was recommended to me years ago, I can definitely hold the torch high and say it’s a privilege to finally be able to see it. You should do the same.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is out now from Eureka Entertainment.
Check out a clip below…