Robert Mitchum was a true Hollywood icon and the very essence of cool personified. Legendary roles in films like ‘Night of the Hunter’, ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Out of the Past’ cemented his image as a Hollywood bad boy – a status more than confirmed by his personal life. Although Mitchum is best known for his popular roles in the classic Hollywood era, he actually worked steadily in film and television until his death in 1997.
One of his later roles, that of Eddie Coyle in Peter Yates’ Friends of Eddie Coyle, is one of Mitchum’s best performances. The film’s title is deeply ironic, as Coyle has no friends in the world. He’s no stranger to trouble with the law, and his life as a career criminal leads him with something nasty hanging over his head. Coyle is facing a bootlegging charge for a job he took in New Hampshire, and he thinks he can’t handle the tough times. He’s done it before, you see, and it left him penniless and without opportunity. He faces a stark decision: report his colleagues for his freedom, or stay honest and end up behind bars.
Yates’ film is a masterpiece of tension, and Mitchum is brilliant in the lead role. For fans of the way “Menace II Society” deals with the life of crime, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in “Friends of Eddie Coyle.” While the film features some wonderfully executed heists, it’s much more about how crime wears you down over time and how no one wins in the end.