Editor’s note: I am very pleased to welcome Tom Piccirilli to Crimespree Cinema. Upon learning Tom was a fan of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, I asked him if he would be willing to offer up his thoughts on this fine film. He has generously agreed to share his time and talent with us.

I just completed THE COLD SPOT and had…well, fun might not describe the time I spent with Tom’s hard crew, but enjoyable would be accurate.

It appears I am not the only one, The Mystery Writers of America nominated it for best Paperback original earlier this year.

Release date: May 19th, 2009)
MSRP: $29.95
Theatrical release date: June 27th, 1973

Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Alex Rocco, Steven Keats
Writer: Paul Monash (Screenplay), George V. Higgins (Novel)

In what may be the finest performances of his long and acclaimed career, Robert Mitchum plays small-fish gunrunner Eddie “Fingers” Coyle in director Peter Yates’s film version of George V. Higgins’s brilliant and highly influential crime novel. Forlorn and forsaken, Eddie is maneuvered into becoming a snitch for the cops as he works the seedy underbelly of Boston. He knows it’s a death sentence if he’s found out by his various crooked colleagues, but at his age he can’t handle another stretch in the can.

Mitchum gives a wonderfully nuanced and understated performance. His expressive features describe all the conflict and desperation that Eddie feels as he does his best to keep from being overwhelmed by heartless “friends” with agendas and a manipulative treasury agent. Mitchum claimed to have put his whole soul into the role, and it’s easy to believe him. He’s surrounded by some of the best character actors of the time. Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Alex Rocco, and Steven Keats all turn in top-notch performances as men even shadier than Eddie himself.

Paul Monash’s faithfully adapted script is compelling, convincing, and razor-wire taut. The dialogue is pitch-perfect poetry of the gutters. The location shooting in Boston and environs along with the semi-documentary style to the film lends an already dark and realistic movie even more gritty authenticity. The deceptively simple story shrugs forward step by step in the finest film noir fashion, advancing to an inevitable, gut-wrenching, yet subdued finale. A true cinematic gem, this is one of the best American crime films of the 70s.

The Criterion DVD release package features an informative commentary by director Yates as well as a booklet which includes two lengthy essays: a retrospective on the film by critic Kent Jones and an excerpt of Grover Lewis’s 1973 Rolling Stone profile of Robert Mitchum, from on the set.

Tom Piccirilli is the author of more than twenty novels including THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, and A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN. He’s won the International Thriller Writers Award and the Stoker Award, and he’s been nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity, the World Fantasy Award, and Le Grand Prix de L’Imagination. Learn more at his official site: