|'Circles ambiguously around the figures to whom we are introduced, forcing us to wait for all the pieces of the story to fall into place before we can decide where everyone lands on the good-to-bad spectrum'.|
If you're looking for a contemporary companion piece to The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, then 2012's Killing Them Softly might be your best bet. Both films are adapted from novels by George V. Higgins, and as such share a similar narrative structure that takes in an array of characters from various corners of the criminal domain. Rather than choosing to give us a clear protagonist or antagonist to root for, Higgins - and in turn Paul Monash in adapting The Friends Of Eddie Coyle's screenplay from the novel of the same name - instead circles ambiguously around the figures to whom we are introduced, forcing us to wait for all the pieces of the story to fall into place before we can decide where everyone lands on the good-to-bad spectrum.
So, whilst Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is the name that appears in the title, the character is arguably focused upon no more than several others during the opening hour or so of director Peter Yates' film. An ageing small-time gun runner for a Boston crime organisation with an impending prison sentence he's eager not to face, Eddie is developed well by Mitchum despite being absent for a few considerable stretches throughout the first half of the film. The same can't be said for his wife Sheila (Helena Carroll) and their children, seen only briefly in a handful of scenes during the opening act, and whom Eddie states are the driving force behind his desperation to avoid incarceration. It's in areas such as this that the lack of focus on a main character by Monash, and in turn Yates, feels harmful to The Friends Of Eddie Coyle's overall impact. Had we spent more time with both Eddie and his family it's arguable that, when the film does zoom in on its titular figure during the final act, we may have been more emotionally invested in his eventual fate.
Away from Eddie, Yates arguably falls under the blade of the same double-edged sword elsewhere. The lack of exposition is refreshing, and the shift between the clandestine meetings and conversations between various characters allows Monash's well-written dialogue to regularly take centre stage. However, the way in which Yates skips between scenarios and plot threads can become somewhat bewildering, as well as lending The Friends Of Eddie Coyle a frustratingly meandering and unfocused quality at times.
There are occasions where Yates nails the understated menace perfectly, with scenes depicting two armed bank robberies and a police stakeout of an illegal machine gun sale in particular building the tension superbly. The director fails to deliver these moments of excellence regularly enough, however, leaving The Friends Of Eddie Coyle feeling like a consistently solid but largely unremarkable entry into the crime film genre.
Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.
The Friends Of Eddie Coyle is released in the UK on Monday 25th January 2016