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Blu-ray & DVD Review

DVD cover

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle
Distributor: Eureka / The Masters of Cinema
RRP: £17.95 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 25 January 2016

Being a gangster is a young man’s game. For Eddie, a lifetime of crime has only left him in trouble with the law again. Desperate to avoid a jail sentence, Eddie turns fink, selling out his friends in the hope of getting off, while at the same time seemingly helping his friends commit further bank robberies. Playing both side is a dangerous game, a game Eddie may not win...

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973. 1 hr, 41 min, 58 sec) is a crime thriller, directed by Oscar-nominated Peter Yates (Bullitt 1968).

The film avoids the oft times glorification of a Martin Scorsese film, looking rather at a small time gangster in the twilight of his years. Eddie is demonstrably worn out by his lifestyle, whatever thrill he once gained as a criminal is now long since passed. This is reflected in the world which Eddie passes through, the inside sets are all strip lighted, pulling much of the colour out of the actors faces, making them look gaunt, spent and ill. This idea is further enhance when we see Eddie walking the streets of Boston, looking like a fading ghost.

Eddie’s double dealing makes the term friends debatable in a world of mistrust and misdirection. Detective Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) continually pushes Eddie to give up more and more of his friends. Foley is not particularly charismatic, nor is he overly dishonest, he just doesn’t care what happens to Eddie so long as he continues to receive good intelligence, regardless of the fact that the more Eddie gives up the more dangerous it becomes for him. On the criminal side Eddies friends are no less dishonest and just as willing to play both sides, which leaves Eddie vulnerable. Potential patsy for all and friend to none.

Eddie is by far one of Robert Mitchum’s best performances, so it is odd that the film is generally overlooked. Mitchum is able to portray Eddie's increasing desperation and the erosion of his criminal honour with little more than a well-placed look. Eddie is also a man who is being left behind, even in the criminal world. While he is willing to source illegal handguns for a bank robbery he is appalled that his dealer is carrying military grade assault weapons. Cocooned from the changing nature of both crime and the political extremism that would sweep the USA and Europe in the sixties and seventies it shows just how out of touch he has become. His reaction is almost quaint, harking back to a time when even crime had its limits, but this idea, like Eddie is past its time.

The film does not contain much in the way of action, there are the bank robberies, for which Eddie is supplying the guns, but this is really the outcome of the outsourcing of supply to Eddie, who is not high in the gangster hierarchy, he exists more like a gofer. Our main concern is with Eddie and his journey through the film. The tone of the film gives Eddie little chance to succeed in his plans to stay out of jail, this is not a very forgiving environment and Eddie has neither the status nor the power to really pull off the scheme. It does not take the film very long to give the audience the feeling that Eddie has bitten off more than he can chew.

The movie is being released on a duel format, so you get the Blu-ray and the DVD as part of the Masters of Cinema set, I can only comment on the DVD, as that is what was sent. The package also includes a 44-page booklet.

The picture is fine and clear with a little grain from the original print. The film has been fully restored ending with an excellent print. The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a clear 2.0 audio track, with the option for an English subtitle track. The DVD contains a couple of extras. First up is Peter Yates (1 hr. 17 min, 07 sec), an interview with the director from 1996, which covers his career. It’s a bit washed out and looks to have been sourced from tape, plus the Q&A is happening in a theatre, so the audio is variable. Nevertheless, its worthy watching for insights to Yates and his way of working. Secondly you have a presentation by critic Glen Kenny (22 min, 18 sec) filmed in 2015, especially for the Masters of Cinema Series, wherein he discusses both the book and the film.

A great performance from Mitchum, presented in a good package.


Charles Packer

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Blu-ray & DVD