Robert Mitchum, Boston Criminal

Hinkson_Retro v Neo Noir Friends of Eddie Coyle Poster

The Friends of Eddie Coyle(1973) in all its bleakness showcases Robert Mitchum as a petty Boston criminal who sells firearms to the mob and becomes a pawn as an informer for the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) official, Dave Foley (Richard Jordan). Mitchum is believable as the tired crook surrounded by winter’s dead trees, gray buildings, and slimy characters. Actor Peter Boyle gives the performance of his career as the hit man assigned to bump off Eddie Coyle. Suspense builds at the Boston Bruins hockey arena; the live footage of Bobby Orr and the violence on the ice reflects the cold game unfolding in the stands.

This 1970s crime drama is nothing like Scorsese’s crime drama, The Departed.  There’s no zippy music in the background. No violet shirts or leopard robes worn by an eccentric boss. You’ll visit no classy neighborhoods or experience melodrama in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This is a gritty world of hit-men, suppliers, and fickle officers of the law. In this dog-eat-dog world, train stations and bowling alley parking lots are the arenas where victims are as valued as a mucus stained handkerchief. 4/5.

Do you prefer the realism here or Scorsese’s colorful, pretty world in The Departed? 

27 thoughts on “Robert Mitchum, Boston Criminal

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  1. I’ll take Peter Yates’ wonderful adaptation of the George V. Higgins novel over Scorsese’s The Departed any day of the week. This ’70s crime gem maintains a certain authenticity of the period rather than the somewhat bloated remake of the Hong Kong classic, Infernal Affairs, which got Scorsese his make up Oscar. Don’t get me wrong, I love Marty’s work, in general. And Goodfellas, Raging Bull, even Casino should have delivered a Best Director statue his way, but somehow didn’t. Mitchum’s run of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Yakuza (which also starred Richard Jordan in a totally different role), and Farewell, My Lovely was a terrific crime trifecta for the man during this decade, and is rarely topped. And Yates effort here matched him. Great film to showcase, Cindy! 🙂


  2. I would give this one 5/5, as I loved Mitchum’s weary portrayal of Eddie Coyle. I am not a fan of The Departed, as Nicholson just keeps playing Nicholson, and of course, DiCaprio is in it too! I preferred the Chinese original, to be honest.
    Glad you tracked ‘Eddie’ down, Cindy.
    Best wishes, Pete.


    1. A lot of you highly recommended it. I must say, I don’t think I could watch this again and find the romanticization of Organized Crime is entertaining with Scorsese and the prettiness is not realistic. I did think Alex Rocco was fantastic –ugh, he reminds me of some unsavory men from my childhood. Anyway, thanks for commenting


  3. Great to see this highlighted! I saw it about 20 years ago so I’m not sure how it would stack up next to The Departed…I enjoyed Scorsese’s film so I’m tempted to side with that. What I can say for sure is that I prefer The Friends Of Eddie Coyle to last year’s Black Mass, which was about the life and crimes of Whitey Bulger. Eddie Coyle has just been rereleased in the UK so I’ll see if I can pick up a copy soon.


      1. i dont see any linkage between these three mitchum films from the 70’s. The Yakuza is not very good. Farewell My Lovely is perhaps the best film version of a marlowe novel. And if you want to group Mitchum’s 70’s crime thrillers together, you would have to start with the flawed but powerful Going Home from 1971.


  4. Cindy, you did a fine job of capturing the mood and spirit of this wonderful film…but why mention Scorsese’s vulgarization of the chinese movie Infernal Affairs in the same breath? Because both are set in Boston? Well, there are plenty of great crime pictures filmed in Boston, and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” tops them all. One movie that can stand with it, however, is 1974’s “The Nickel Ride,” even though it is set in Los Angeles. Starring Jason Miller (the young priest in the exorcist) and directed by Robert Mulligan (To kill A Mockingbird)… is an under-rated, low-key character study that deserves rediscovery.


    1. Hi Bill, my mind leaped around from the Boston location but then I started thinking about crime drama in general and focused on two ways to approach the crime drama–the realism and drear in Eddie Coyle to the melodrama of The Departed are opposite ends of the spectrum. Both extremes offer different emotional reactions. I’ve not seen “The Nickel Ride”–sounds interesting.


      1. i wouldnt even mention the departed in the same breath as eddie coyle. it wasnt even a movie. it was a declaration of senility. what is the opposite end of eddie coyle? my nominee is the television series “breaking bad.”


  5. My favorite Robert Mitchum and maybe my favorite film set in Boston. (And Government Center still looks as bleak ever!). I have yet to see “The Departed” because the trailer was a turn-off for me, with its tired goodfella posturing and kitchen-sink soundtrack. Have you seen the Seth Meyers fake trailer called “Boston Accent”? Too funny.


  6. Brava, Cindy!… Brava!

    I think Mr. Mitchum had been waiting all his life to take on and become the character of Eddie “Fingers” Doyle. The pinnacle of his career long “world weary” roles. A small and infinitely expendable cog in a huge unseen machine that values life cheaply. On both sides of the law!

    Richard Jordan is fantastic in his mood and attitude shifting role as Eddie’s ATF handler and controller. Stacking the chips ever higher against his snitch (C.I.. Confidential Informant and unwilling pawn) until something’s got to give. Then backstabbing him when his usefulness has expired. Leaving him for the mob to clean up.

    Peter Boyle excels. Redeeming himself for his earlier turning down the role of Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle in ‘The French Connection’. While Alex Rocco and his crew all reach far beyond their grasps. And succeed!

    While Scorsese’s ‘Departed’ seems to go in too many directions. Losing focus on its main characters. Growing too large and too clumsy to reel in before the final credits. By no means a bad film. One that falls just shy of being a great film.


    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for stopping by to comment. I agree with everything you say! You have reminded me I need to revisit the French Connection. I barely remember the plot and I miss Gene Hackman.


      1. I wish I could add to the discussion but I haven’t seen this one nor The Departed (original nor remake), but hey I have seen French Connection and I loved that one! 🙂


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