The Film (5/5)
Gangster films like the Godfather and Goodfellas worked to give a look behind the curtain of life in a crime family. However, even in those films the low end criminals in these families appear to be making quite a good living. Peter Yates (Krull, Bullitt) in his 1974 film really decided to show the life of a true blue collar criminal in the Boston Underworld.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is based on a novel by George V. Higgins an attorney who became an author who was was all too familiar with the criminal underworld he was depicting. Rather, than play up the glamourous aspects the book, and the film show the day to day life of a working criminal, and in doing so create something that is truly different from anything else the genre has offered before or since, even the film's it has purportedly influenced.
Friends of Eddie Coyle stars the immortal Robert Mitchum (Night of the Hunter) as Eddie Coyle. An aging criminal living in the suburbs of Boston, and just trying to get by in the final decades of his life. Eddie isn't some great criminal mastermind, he's just the guy someone goes to, to find out about other people and things. If someone needs guns, they ask Eddie, and he'll put them in the right direction. Now Eddie has a problem, which is this. He recently got arrested driving a truck of stolen liquor into New Hampshire. Unless someone from the police gives a word to the D.A.'s office that Eddie has changed he is very likely to spend his last years in a prison cell. If he turns over enough evidence, he's liable to get himself killed by the people he considers peers. The film depicts his struggle as he attempts to stay in business, while also trying to stay out of jail.
People going into the Friend's of Eddie Coyle expecting anything close to a traditional crime film should check those expectations at the door. The film is less of a narrative, and more of an atmospheric venture based around a series of excellent performances. The film is carried by Robert Mitchum who appears to live in the role of Eddie Coyle offering such an amazing outstanding performance, one could easily believe that he has been in the crime business for 30 years. He also offers the feeling that having been in it for so long, having struggled that he is running out of time, and energy and is starting to let go. This performance is matched by the film's visuals which though very natural, and depict a certain sense of near documentary style authenticity of it's Boston area locales, offers a slow beautifully realized atmosphere that seems the Boston Crime version of a Jean Rollin film.
Criterion have presented the Friends of Eddie Coyle in a splendid 1:85:1 MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p transfer. The transfer effectively maintains the very natural look of the film with a solid natural color scheme, deep blacks, accurate flesh tones, and a gorgeous natural grain structure. There is some minor softness, but I believe that's more a result of the production itself than Criterion's transfer.
The film's audio is presented in a similar excellent LPCM 1.0 Mono track in English. The dialogue and score come through nicely, and I did not detect any issues with the track.
There isn't much on this released. We get a commentary by Peter Yates, a stills gallery, and a 44 page booklet of liner notes.
In a career of many high points (seriously Yates worked his magic in so many genres, and so many great films) this maybe my favorite of his. The Blu-ray from Criterion looks and sounds fantastic, and while the extras are none too elaborate, we do get a director's commentary with the late Peter Yates who died in 2011 2 years after recording it for the prior DVD. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.