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A Jazzy 1970's Flick Featuring Dave Grusin

Updated on December 2, 2010
Mitchum's career in film began when he was a young man in 1930's and 1940's Hollywood.
Mitchum's career in film began when he was a young man in 1930's and 1940's Hollywood.

Five years after Bullitt, the (1968) Steve McQueen film featuring chase scenes in muscle-cars careening over San Francisco hills, Peter Yates made a similar film, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, (1973). Even more of a “guy-flick” than Bullitt, this later film takes place in a gritty, unrelentingly male world. Indeed, women are merely incidental, as the aproned housewife, sex-pot girlfriend or obsequious bank-teller: with the exception of one wanna-be bank robber, who has a slightly more robust character, women have few lines and even fewer scenes. Still, I was mesmerized by this film.

In and around Boston, during a cold, dry Autumn, Robert Mitchum, as sleepy and stunned as the leafless trees, hunkers through every bleak scenario with pained affability. He is Eddie Coyle, entrenched in a nefarious world of terrifying, rubbery-masked, bank robbers and underground gun-running, he wants to escape an imminent prison sentence and can do so only by turning snitch on his so called “friends”.

Rolling Stone called Mitchum “poetic” in this film, and it is an apt description, in terms of the timing he adopts for every gesture and facial expression, each word or movement. This is to Mitchum’s credit, and most certainly has something to do with the director, Peter Yates; because, the pace of the entire film is exquisite – the kind of thoughtful rhythm that cannot be found in Hollywood today. Even down to the film’s coloring - subdued and earthy, which is now out of the realm of duplication

Robert Mitchum was also an author, composer and musician.
Robert Mitchum was also an author, composer and musician.

Quentin Tarrantino, Pulp Fiction, (1994); Jackie Brown, (1997) surely loved this film: he has made an admirable stab at this same genre, with its inimitable pace. In The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Steven Keats is gun-runner, Jackie Brown, the obvious name-sake for Tarrantino’s tongue-in-cheek gangster film, (with an impressive cast) which he made over two decades later. Scenes from other Tarrantino-flicks will leap to mind for his loyal fans.

Yet, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is not violent by today’s standards. However, it’s heavy arms and gun-hoisting theme may have been the precursor to more and more violence in the post, film-noir era. There are two fatal shots fired – both violent, but one shows a watered-down stain that is supposed to be blood, and the other shot is implied rather than seen.

Still, the film is more an art piece, but not in the sense of Tarrantino’s “aestheticization of violence”, which is an appalling euphemism. Yates used slow, rumbling cars that growl to life, then speed off - their monstrous, gas-devouring engines screeching to an impossibly heavy excelleration. And the continuous, cool, edgy jazz rifts by Dave Grusin, which deem this film, not just classic, but stylish. The music compliments Eric Seelig’s wardrobe-work: from brown, leather jackets of a slick, ultra-‘70’s texture; brown corduroys and brown parkas; open-collar, paisley shirts; to fitted blazers and Coyle’s ill-fitted everything. Something of an hypnotic yet thrilling milieu is established in this prosaic, beige and Autumn-toned panorama.

Dave Grusin Performed The Soundtrack to This Film.

While Mitchum’s Coyle implies with uncanny congruity the tortured feelings within, Steven Keats as Jackie Brown is the only emotive character in the story. An irascible, turtle-necked hoodlum, and quite justifiably paranoid, he erupts with holocausts of feeling that might come shooting through his dark eyes. He appears, by turns, a Danish warrior and a sharp-jowled rock star from some 1970’s band as, maybe, Aerosmith. Forever behind the wheel of his muscle-car, he prowls the under-populated towns or waits in thinly-veiled hiding for trouble to find him.

Many of these actors have faded from our film-viewing consciousness, with the exception of Mitchum, of course, and Peter Boyle, who plays bar-tender and arch-snitch, Dillon. There is Richard Jordan as Dave Foley, who works for the U.S. Treasury Department, casing for leads with a believable, but not showy, brand of fraternal hospitality. Jordan plays his part with the precision of an English stage-actor, utilizing the art of conversation, via a Boston-twang: his keen stealth, which defines the status-quo, covers an implicit brutality and deceit broiling just under the surface of the entire plot.


To call this film spiritually vapid would be to miss the artistry of its making and its message – a message which strikes to the bone of human suffering - of its acute, psychological strains. Religious undertones do have a subtle presence, if only in part because of religion’s desperate absence. The Church and the pope are mentioned, or referred to, three times, as when Coyle’s wife infers that, among all of his covert telephone calls, why doesn’t he “call the pope”. Or when Jackie Brown implies that a priest at St. Paul’s would probably buy a gun from him “to keep under his robe for protection.” Coyle wants to redeem himself, but the only option does not seem very holy.

This is an art film with a message about humanity - and a lesson that teaches how not to live one’s life.


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    • tracykarl99 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Hey, thank you so much, Kenneth! I'm glad you enjoyed this, and I'm so glad you are now a fan of mine! This film is a classic with a cult following! Thanks for the compliments...:)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      tracy, AMAZING! Great stuff here! Fantastic read. Loved your style and topic. Mitchum is one of my few Hollywood favorites. Thanks for this article. I voted up and away. I am now a fan and follower, if that is okay by you. Sincerely and Respectfully, Kenneth Avery, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama, that reminds you of Mayberry, where Andy (Taylor) Griffith worked.

    • tracykarl99 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Hey Shinkicker! That's right, Peter Boyle also played a very convincing role. I know this movie is an exceptional one, because I want to see it again. Thanks for stopping by:)

    • Shinkicker profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Haven't seen that movie in years Tracy. It was great cinema by a talented Director and Peter Boyle was amazing in his role.

      Thanks for the reminder

    • tracykarl99 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Mentalist acer, I'll have to check out "For a Fistfull of Dollers" and "Patton". I'm still not sure how this movie caught my eye in the first place, but am so glad to have seen it! The director and actors certainly fall into the catagory of "independent character"! Thanks ~

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      As someone who grew up with with movies such as Bullit,For a Fistfull of Dollers,and Patton,among many others,the main influence upon myself was their independent character;)

    • tracykarl99 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks so much for reading, earnest! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. I think you will like the film, too. Let me know...

      Thanks for the nice comments:)

    • earnestshub profile image


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      A great read. I may see this movie, I seem to have missed it. Great review!

      Your writing is exceptional.

    • tracykarl99 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      eilander, Yes! I know you would enjoy this film - with your keen sense of the artistry of things. I would also venture to agree that David Grusin's musical score contributed greatly in making this film exceptional and not just a "guy-flick". Thanks for the very nice words:)

    • eilander1542011 profile image


      7 years ago from Everywhere

      One of the most inclusive reviews I've read of any movie...ever. thank you so much for touching on the music of the film as well. People fail to realize just how important audio in general is to tv and movies, and especially the music, without it the movie would be bland and NO ONE would sit through it. I have not seen the flick, but from what I gather, I would likely enjoy it. Thank you for a great review.


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