Mitchum is perfect as a man who has grown tired of risking his livelihood for his bosses, having grown old with little to show for it other than some extra knuckles gained from having his hand slammed into a drawer by a rival. Coyle is well-connected and reliable, with a keen eye for a good business deal. Yet as his superiors have grown rich, he still lives in a shabby neighbourhood, saving up any pennies he can. He purchases guns from the wild yet competent young gun-runner Jackie Brown (Steven Keats), but sees an opportunity to prove himself useful to Foley, who actually has more informants within Coyle's underworld than the old man realises. Coyle understands that this is his last chance to escape the world he has become weary of, and spend his remaining years enjoying the sunshine. Yet his information never seems to be enough for Foley, and as the rate of successful arrests rapidly increases, it isn't long until his 'friends' become suspicious.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle could have only been made in the 1970s, when studios in Hollywood were more open to taking risks and allowed writers to tell the story they wanted to tell. This is about as unsentimental and understated as crime dramas get, shot by cinematographer Victor J. Kemper in a loose style more akin to documentary than thriller. The tone is almost nihilistic at times, mirroring the mindset of the majority of the film's shifty characters. It makes for riveting viewing, with Mitchum delivering one of his finest performances in what was already a muscular career. The supporting cast is excellent too, with both Boyle and Keats utterly convincing as bottom-level scumbags, all of whom seem to exist in a state of constant paranoia and aggression. It will leave you incredibly cold, but only the very best crime sagas expose this dangerous world for what it actually is.
Directed by: Peter Yates
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Joe Santos