I was in some kind of diminished state when I first read this 10.1 piece on the best Boston movies by Newsweek‘s bureau chief Mark Starr. Inspired by the Boston-y locales, accents and Irish machismo in Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed, Starr tapped out a laundry list of films shot in Boston, some of which (Between The Lines, The Boston Strangler, The Verdict) exude some of the cultural atmosphere of that town, and some of which (the Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway Thomas Crown Affair) are mere Hollywood visitations.
Of course, there is only one real Boston crime movie — only one that really and truly gets the aroma and texture of gritty, pretzel-and-beer-breath Beantown and its surrounding areas, and that is Peter Yates‘ The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973). And I’m getting very tired of writing this year after year because the company holding the rights (Paramount released the film) refuses to remaster and release it on DVD in the right way.
You can buy a cheesy Z-grade DVD taken from some highly dubious source, but watching, much less buying, a DVD of this quality is degrading. A film as funky and flavorful as Eddie Coyle — particularly one with one of Robert Mitchum‘s finest performances — deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect.
“Mitchum has always been one of our best screen actors: sardonic, masculine, quick-witted, but slow to reveal himself,” Roger Ebert wrote 33 years ago in his Eddie Coyle review. “He has never been in an absolutely great film; he doesn’t have masterpieces behind him like Brando or Cary Grant. More than half his films have been conventional action melodramas, and it is a rare summer without at least one movie in which Mitchum wears a sombrero and lights bombs with his cigar. But give him a character and the room to develop it, and what he does is wonderful.
“The character of Eddie Coyle is made for him: a weary middle-aged man, but tough and proud; a man who has been hurt too often in life not to respect pain; a man who will take chances to protect his own territory. Teh Friends of Eddie Cioyle is not a high-strung gangster film, it doesn’t have a lot of overt excitement in it, and it doesn’t go in for much violence. It simply gives us a man, invites our sympathy for him, and then watches almost sadly as his time runs out. And it works so well because Eddie is played by Mitchum, who has perhaps never been better.”
I love this observation in Vincent Canby’s review, to wit: “It has an ear for the way people talk — for sentences that begin one way and end another, or are stuffed with excess pronouns. ‘What you don’t know, it don’t bother you,’ a friend might say to Eddie.”