The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973, Peter Yates)

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negative reviews that make you want to watch a film --

The film of George V. Higgins's novel, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle", is a happily brutal, bleak without artistry, cold-hearted and life-denying piece of amorality in cinematic form, populated with actors whose characters possess no character (the filmmaker's fault, not the actors) and only barely resemble human beings as they mug their way through recitations of some of the most anti-dramatic and banal dialogue I've ever heard in a mainstream Hollywood production. The only excuse for making a film like this is to make pure, unadulterated evil look hip, cool, and therefore falsely exciting. But how can you make losers, traitorous cops, and thugs look interesting?

Well, one way among other things is to sprinkle the actors' dialogue with the most casual and blissfully ignorant racist assumptions equating only Blacks with welfare and sub-standard living conditions, which of course serves the purpose of validating the selfish, furtive, low-life moves of Eddie and his so-called friends (???) by implying that even though they may be bone-headed criminals that routinely botch-up their little capers, at least they ain't n-----s. For those of us who have the courage to question the debatable validity of those assumptions, please read Barbara's Ehrenreich's 1991 article in Time magazine entitled, "Welfare: A White Secret." And then do the research that she did, in case you disagree with her conclusions.

Another way to make the death of life appear to be dramatically compelling is to get creative visually, in this case recording the action in long, slow takes reminiscent of documentaries, and to de-saturate the film stock so that color is drained from Nature. This makes the footage look "artsy", though I don't completely understand why that is. It's a production value that is routinely employed (and at other times successfully) to make things appear more "realistic", but here it only serves to make this film a more detached and unfeeling experience. It's as though the filmmakers said, "Life is miserable, and misery loves company, so let's make Nature look the way we feel".

There is only one, brief scene in this film that admits the possibility of joy in life, and that's when Eddie lovingly embraces his sweet, matronly Irish wife, Sheila, in the kitchen as she washes dishes. Whether it's her dutiful attendance to her lowly domestic chores, or her non-accusing, selfless acceptance of Eddie's legal troubles, it's clear that his suddenly amorous gesture is motivated by loving feelings so strong that she giggles with girlish satisfaction at the urgency of his forgivably mis-timed carnal need.

Movies may reflect life in its various aspects, but the reflection is more useful and constructive when we don't focus exclusively on death, and man-made death at that.

ian, Sunday, 3 November 2013 17:13 (ten years ago) link

four years pass...

Saw this for what I thought was the second time last night, but a post above tells me it was the third. Wouldn't change a word from what I wrote five years ago: like, not love. Great game footage of Bobby Orr.

clemenza, Saturday, 24 February 2018 15:08 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

Phase IV last night, this tonight, Talking Pictures is on a roll.

Sonny Shamrock (Tom D.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 20:02 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

This is fantastic, scuzzy, down and out.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 25 January 2022 02:50 (two years ago) link

about as unglamorous as a crime movie can get. mitchum at his most weary and downtrodden too.

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Wednesday, 26 January 2022 18:09 (two years ago) link

i love when crime movies like this really lean into presenting criminals as deeply pathetic losers

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 26 January 2022 18:18 (two years ago) link


terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 26 January 2022 20:43 (two years ago) link

six months pass...

Watched this last night. It's a pretty unique atmosphere - like the film exists inside the cooling, coiling smoke shot from Peter Boyle's gun. The end reminded me of Dog Day Afternoon (maybe the whole film did - it's scuzziness, the helplessness). Fwiw, I was convinced Mitchum was going to wake up.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Tuesday, 26 July 2022 11:52 (one year ago) link

The other thing it made me think of quite often was S2 of the Wire. Again, something to do with the hopelessness of it all. And the interiors - everything cramped and ill-lit. Helena Carroll could easily have slotted into one of those port-side cottages.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Tuesday, 26 July 2022 11:58 (one year ago) link

ten months pass...

thought this film was pretty good, it was very much about the grungy aesthetic of 1973 - the story, the cars, buildings, clothes, music, neon signs, etc - as well as about the Bruins and Bobby Orr

I was a little disappointed with the agreement between Foley and Dillon at the end

Dan S, Sunday, 4 June 2023 23:22 (eleven months ago) link

I think it's gone from being underrated and underseen to slightly overrated.

clemenza, Sunday, 4 June 2023 23:28 (eleven months ago) link

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