Print Written by Nigel Watson

Eddie Coyle (Mitchum) is a world-weary petty criminal who has spent most of his life in and out of jail. Facing yet another prison term for being involved in a truck hijacking, he turns informant for Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) an agent for the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division (ATF) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in order to get a decreased sentence. 

Eddie uses Jackie Brown (Steven Keats) a furtive gunrunner to supply weapons to a gang who are busy robbing banks in the area of Boston. Whilst dealing with Jackie, Eddie discovers that he is in the process of supplying ‘machine guns’ to a gang of hippies. He gives Dave enough information to capture Jackie, yet this isn’t good enough for the authorities. They want him to become a regular informant before they consider giving him a more lenient sentence.

In this position, between a rock and a hard place, Eddie who longs to retire to Florida, has to grass on the bank robbery gang for a chance of eluding prison. You just have to look into Eddie’s eyes to see that his situation is desperate and that it’s not going to end well.

We are given a subdued, Autumnal view of Boston that is only brightened by Jackie’s green, growling 1971 Plymouth Road Runner that prowls across the screen and by a red Wells Fargo armoured van. The cinematography by Victor Kemper reflects the mood of Film Noir movies, the grubby, dull environments that these characters inhabit, Robert Mitchum’s earlier career and his character’s own twilight years.

Directed by Peter Yates, who is best known for Bullitt, the film is based on the novel with the same title, by George V. Higgins, who had worked as an Assistant United States Attorney before becoming a novelist. Using the knowledge supplied by Higgins, Yates shows in detail the execution of bank robberies, the taut meetings between the gunrunner and his underworld clients, the shadow of the mob, training newcomers in the ways of criminality and the wheeler-dealing between the law and the criminal classes.

The acting and detail of the film is wonderful, Mitchum delivers a masterclass in being downtrodden, yet fighting to survive in a changing world, Boyle is suitably creepy as a bartender who is better at working the system than Eddie and the rest of the cast provide strong performances as characters who have their own self-centred motivations that don’t consider Eddie for one second.

There are moments of action, but the pacing is generally on a slow simmer threatening to boil over at any time. For a gritty crime thriller without any gloss, this is it.



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