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The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000172574
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 2/2/2016 18:51
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    Review for The Friends of Eddie Coyle

    10 / 10

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    I’d never seen ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ but knew it by reputation. It was based on a book which inspired Elmore Leonard to pen ‘Rum Punch’ and even drop in a character name as a tribute – one Jackie Brown. We know where the influence trail led next.

    What I hadn’t realised until I watched it was how brilliant a film it is. In many ways a perfectly formed film where absolutely everything about it works; the dialogue, the narrative, the casting, the cinematography, the direction, the pacing, the editing, the music – all perfectly formed. The net result is one of the finest films I have ever seen; almost certainly in the top ten, though please don’t ask me what film I’m going to surrender to make room for it. But you get the idea. It really is that good.

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    I wasn’t expecting anything this special partially because I’d seen much of Director Peter Yates better known works (Bullitt for example) which were all good but pretty much full-on action movies which, if truth be told, I can take or leave. What I didn’t expect was a film so perfectly in tune with its subject matter. Maybe that’s what truly great Director’s like Yates do – not just stamp their authorship all over it, but do what’s right for the film. In this case, he has does no wrong.

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    Based on a much-lauded novel of the same name by George V. Higgins', famously re-inventing the crime genre through his brilliant use of dialogue (probably picked up from his work as a lawyer). ‘Eddie Coyle’ is full of talk. In this case, it’s the talk of crooks going about the daily grind of their profession as well as those who are tasked with their capture. It’s a grimy, thankless world where trusting the word of another is essential yet ultimately stupid, leaving everyone in a near constant state of paranoia. Playing out like a criminal procedural, we learn the fastidious detail that goes into a bank robbery for example. New guns are needed that can be disposed of so they can’t be traced; drivers need to be where they say they’re going to be and everyone in the team has a part to play.
    It’s tiring work and one man, older than the rest, more tired than them all. In fact, he just wants out – a peaceful, humble life with his loyal, frumpy looking Irish wife who remains devoted to him regardless of the years he’s spent doing time.

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    The old guy is Eddie Coyle (played superbly by an aging Robert Mitchum who should have picked up an Oscar for the role) and he needs to do a couple more jobs to get away from an impending indictment for a previous misdemeanour that could him inside for the rest of his natural life. Or he needs to do something, if he could just figure out what.

    So for now he’s organising the guns. Which means he has to deal with a younger generation of criminals, cock-sure and arrogant, it isn’t long before Coyle puts them right, reminding them of the consequences of scotching on a deal by holding his hand up and recounting how, when a promise fell through, a ‘customer’ of his broke each and every knuckle one by one by slamming them in a drawer. Nice.

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    Options are few for Coyle and one of them is to start to squeal on his so-called ‘friends’. The idea doesn’t come easy to Coyle; he’s built a criminal career on trust. But the other options aren’t looking great either. Besides, who can he trust in any case?

    It’s gritty, grimy, realistic stuff without any gloss. It also has the grooviest, understated score from Dave Grusin too – all Fender Rhodes light jazz, just when it works. The prominent tones in the film are greys and browns with the only relief from the drudgery provided by the odd autumnal exterior.
    The bank robbery scenes are exciting enough, but also clunky, just like they’d be in real-life and when something goes wrong it’s all just a bit unpleasant. Killing a guy is just part of the job though, right? As long as you don’t get caught, it’s more a nuisance than anything else.

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     Whilst some movies focus on police procedurals ‘Coyle’ is very much a criminal procedural; all the detailed dreariness of setting up a job is here. There is something almost existential about Mitchum’s Coyle – all sad eyes and resigned sighs. Life isn’t fair but it’s all he’s got. The ending of the film won't leave you punching the air either but I won't spoil things by spelling it out here.

    The Blu-Ray transfer is excellent though this is no Technicolor dream; it’s grainy and realistic but as good as you’re likely to see it.

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    There are a couple of very decent extras too. First up, an enjoyable ‘video appreciation’ of the film by critic Glenn Kenny who comes across as being a little hard-boiled himself, like an extra from ‘The Sopranos’. He clearly loves the film and seems almost to suggest that, in common with the book, it’s a yardstick by which to measure other decent films in the genre. I found myself agreeing most wholeheartedly.

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    There is also a career-spanning on-stage interview with Peter Yates hosted by critic Derek Malcolm which, once you get used to the inferior audio is interesting stuff. I found it strange hearing Yates, who is very charming and extremely lucid when discussing films, and tallying this with the genius who has made one of the greatest films of all time – and I don’t mean Bullitt. I think it’s just a testament to his professionalism and intelligence that he managed to do exactly the right thing for the story and dialogue, neither of which he could have written. The bits about his many other films I found less interesting.

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    The disc ships with a 44 page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Mike Sutton; an extensive interview with Yates, and archival images.

    If you love film you need to get a copy of this in your collection. It’s sublime.

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