20 May 2009

THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (Dir. Peter Yates, 1973, US) - 'I shoulda known better than to trust a cop...'

The stoic Robert Mitchum as the low life ex-con, Eddie Coyle.

The noir universe is one without any boundaries and those who choose to inhabit such a vacuous and tragic landscape are sure to be determined by the laws of inevitability. The low life criminals that drift across the cinematic spaces of Peter Yates under rated noir character study are dead men; ghosts. Though they try to behave with a degree of normality by attempting to integrate into everyday reality, their mental state is a prisoner of a doomed moral code. 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' is another brilliant seventies film that turns the notion of genre on its head by refusing to reinforce familiar crime/noir conventions. Instead we are presented with an intense and detailed character study of the behaviour and relationship between a ruthless police detective and the criminals who seem indebted to him in one way or another. The understated nature of the direction by Yates and what is a subdued narrative creates an evocative mood piece.

Mitchum's Coyle tries to play both ends as a police informer and gun-runner.

Shot entirely in and around the city of Boston, the film's grasp of the seediness of the urban milieu is like an American equivalent of Jean Pierre Melville's fondness for observing the behaviour, psychology and codes of his uncompromising criminals. Considered by many to feature Robert Mitchum's last great performance and maybe even his best, the foolish yet tragic character of Eddie Coyle is an aging criminal who is forced to become an informer so that he can avoid going to prison at a time when he should be enjoying his retirement. Perfectly cast, the desperation etched on the haggard face of Coyle is that of the doomed noir protagonist. From the moment Coyle appears on screen, we just know that this man is never going to make it to the end, that his life holds very little value to those around him. Film critic, Kent Jones, provides one of the best appreciation's for the film in his specially commissioned essay to accompany the release of the film on the Criterion DVD label.


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