This is another movie I haven’t seen for quite a while, but had a chance to revisit recently. One of the interesting things about it is that it opens with scenes from a bank heist. But what seems to start off as a heist movie is actually a neo-noir crime film.
Basically, Eddie Coyle (played by a downtrodden-looking Robert Mitchum) is a two-bit hood (and family man with a wife, maybe a child tucked away somewhere) working for Boston’s Irish mob. He’s the one who provides the guns for the bank heist that opens the film and (presumably) the other bank robberies that are sprinkled throughout the movie.
So, anyway, he’s doing business (or trying to) with a guy named Jackie Brown. Sound familiar? :) Well, this one’s a male and he’s played by Steven Keats (not a woman played by Pam Grier, although ironically or not she too works for a gun runner).
While Eddie’s trying to do business, he’s also dealing with the feds and facing sentencing on federal criminal charges for driving a truck full of stolen liquor. A job he picked up from his so-called friend, a bartender (played by Peter Boyle). He’s desperate to avoid prison time, particularly since he’d be unable to support his wife, and the last thing he wants is for her to go to work or go on welfare. So he tries to make a deal. He’s willing to set up a weapons buyer (or actually buyers — one male, one female, both clueless young hippies), in exchange for a lighter sentence. Anything but the Big House.
Unfortunately for Eddie he doesn’t listen quite closely enough to the deal being offered. The guy he’s dealing with offers to try to get the prosecutor to recommend a lighter sentence.. That’s not quite the same as promising it’ll happen The truth of the matter is that Eddie Coyle doesn’t stand a chance of getting off easy, given his past crimes. Not in exchange for the relatively lame case offered up to the prosecutor.
On top of which, even if the prosecutor could be persuaded to make such a pitch, the judge is still free to reject it. So, what kind of deal can Eddie really count on?
The other awful truth of the story is that Eddie Coyle doesn’t have any real friends. And the one person he turns to as a confidante (the bartender) … well, let’s just say that he doesn’t have Eddie’s best interests at heart.
The ending is as noir as it gets. You can see it coming. And it’s hardly a spoiler to say that Eddie doesn’t get what he wants in the end. Or maybe he gets the best he can expect, depending on how you look at it.
And when Eddie meets his fate, there’s this cool shot outside the bowling alley. And the neon signs are as neo-noir as it gets. And the candlepins are as as New England as it gets.
For what it’s worth, this was directed by the same guy who directed Bullitt. Some might say it’s a better film. Well, I don’t know … it’s a very good film. Depressing as hell, but good.
This trailer demonstrates just how 70s this movie is!
PS: You may recognize a few of the actors of that time, including Joe Santos (Dennis from The Rockford Files).
And props go to Helena Carroll, as Eddie’s long-suffering, but amenable wife. Hers is a standout performance, and not just because so many of the guys in this film look, dress, and act alike. :)
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Directed by Peter Yates
Produced by Paul Monash
Screenplay by Paul Monash (based on the novel by George V. Higgins)