The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a crime film with structure. There is an issue that happens and different people have different roles in the crime scenario. Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) decides to tell on his friends to avoid jail time. When he does this, though, his mob friends have family with lives on the line. The criminals, however, are depicted to seem as if they are normal people who have lives, but on the outside world, they have demons out to haunt them based on their judgment in the crime world. This film is detailed in how every character plays a role in this small town of criminals.
Director Peter Yates opens the film with a quiet tone of a character walking to his car. The silence in the film infers shady behavior. That is the tone where I find the suspicion and suspense to take place. That mellow tone leaves audience to be ready for a film with situations that can be disturbing, yet enticing. Later on, the movie brings us to a bar where the mob hang out. The cinematography of the bar is shaded black with some red. That cinematic concept sets the tone for suspense.
The film’s attitude on characters appears to be unreliable. The unreliability of characters later sums up to how everyone in the crime is involved. The film views the main character Eddie Coyle as someone who may be facing jail time for numerous offenses. He is a small time gangster in Boston. Coyle is stressed in curiosity on terms if he is going to be doing jail time or not. We realize his stress as he says, “I done the time and I stood up but I can’t take no more chances.” The relevance of this quote is that Coyle does not want to suffer because he knows he will not be in a pleasant place based on his actions. Especially since he has been there before.
Yates chooses to present the film in a quiet tone to be a different mob movie. Whereas other mob films like Shaft, Scarface, and The Godfather contain tons of shooting and violence. The Friends of Eddie Coyle has some of that, but has more of the conversations and people being held hostage play the suspense in the movie. Instead of frequent shooting of guns and violence, there are talks of guns in the movie. Guns are distributed illegally. When the deals are taking place, the conversations among the topic is relevant, sadistic, and calculated. The negativity of this aspect is shown in the quote where Jackie Brown (Steven Keats) says, “I’ve got more than five machine guns, and the rest are gonna be pointed at YOU.” This moment defines disturbing situations on terms of conversation instead of action.
The film may make viewers think that Coyle is the focus of the film. He is a big deal, but he is not the main focus. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a title that does not refer much to Coyle, but refers to the people he is snitching on. Also the word “friends” infers that these people can be normal people who live an everyday life. Based on their judgment, though, their enemies are going to come back to make their lives harder.
The filmmakers chose to present The Friends of Eddie Coyle in these manners is because they did not want to make a typical mafia movie. What I mean by this is a film where the focus would only be violence, coarse language, and suggestive content. An example is the movie Shaft. The goal of Shaft was to be harsh and vulgar, which was common for 1970s mafia movies. This caused The Friends of Eddie Coyle to stand out then, because this was a completely different type of mafia movie.
Three and a half stars.