Turner Classic Movies ran The Friends of Eddie Coyle over the weekend, with Robert Mitchum. I re-read the book a few months ago and had heard good things about the movie, so I made time for it.
Wish I was that smart every day.
This is an understated, well-made, well-acted, movie that captures the feel of the book perfectly. Screenwriter Paul Monash knew to leave George V. Higgins's dialog alone as much as possible and Mitchum gives one of his best performances. World weary, not sure who to trust and choosing unwisely, the pressures on Eddie are written in every line of Mitchum's face and captured in his slow, no-nonsense delivery. Eddie's a loser but he's no sap, and those below him on the food chain know he's not to be trifled with.
The supporting cast of Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, and a handful of other character actors people of a certain age would recognize from the 70s is excellent. The only weakness is Dave Grusin's soundtrack, which aged poorly and sounds now like outtakes from a 70s TV cop show, for which Grusin did a lot of work in those days.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is testament to how gripping a "small movie" movie can be. Nothing apocalyptic happens, or is threatened. The fate of the free world is not at stake, nor an ocean liner full of passengers or skyscraper of office workers. No car chases or brawls or gunfights. Just the dreary world of a small-time hood trying to stay out of prison, and how his involvement in events beyond his control bring him down. The movie gives you the feeling there's an Eddie Coyle out there right now, in the same fix, and you're right. Every relatively large city in the country has its Eddie Coyles, and that's what makes a story like this so effective.