Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

New Mitchum film has ring of reality

Cleveland Press September 13, 1973

There are routine, petty frustrations, days when things just don't go right. That goes for crooks as well as stockbrokers, newspaper men, teachers and carpenters.

It is the day-in, day-out problems of making a dishonest buck in the world of petty criminals that is examined In "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," one of the most fascinating and off - beat crime movies ever made.

Eddie Coyle is a middle-aged, Boston-Irish hood. He is small time, a freelancer picking up a job whenever and wherever he can. He sells guns to people who need guns to be used in a hurry. He hustles goods over the state line.

He has a record and he's coming up for trial and at his age, with a wife and three kids to support that's not good. And, he's getting old. He'd like to make some money with his underworld connections and he'd also like to get on the right side of the law.

Eddie Coyle has friends on both sides of the street and so do his friends have friends. Truly, the dishonesty among crooks is amazing.

The picture has the gritty realism of the novel on which it is based including the coarse street vernacular, rough language but more genuine in this film than in most.

It portrays a gray, mixed up world of half-truths, of people making connections, of folks conning each other.

The picture has been given pace and action by interweaving the efforts of a well organized gang of bank robbers. They move fast, they are efficient they are deadly and they are the people to whom Coyle has been supplying guns.

It is the kind of movie that takes shape before your eyes, the seemingly unrelated pieces falling into place, irony piling upon irony and a climax that is almost inevitable.

Robert Mitchum plays Eddie Coyle and it is one of the best pieces of work this underrated actor has done in years.

It is more than having the Boston-Irish accent down perfectly (as do most of the people in the movie). There is a weariness that comes through in his bearing, the way he walks, even in the look in his eyes. He's tough but he's old. He's a man trying to hang on and the result is a mixture of desperation and frustration.

When he wants to, no one can handle lines quite so fluently as Mitchum.

Listen to him explain his nickname, Knuckles, how he got it when he didn't deliver the right goods and his friends told him to put his hand in the drawer and how they slammed the drawer and how it hurt.

Or hear him outline the problems of dealing in handguns to a young man -- "One, they're hard to sell. Two, you're dealing with people like you, and, you're not honest."

Peter Boyle also is superb as a bartender whose place of business is the clearing house for information, a man who deals with all kind of friends. He supplies information to the law, takes murder contracts from the underworld -- but not on credit strictly cash.

"Did you ever make a hit on the cuff," he asks.

"The Friends of Eddie Coyle" is no ordinary cops and robbers movie. It has an ending that is both subtle and ironic. It has no hero, no real villain--just a bunch of people who go to work every day, only they're crooks.