The 1970s may be my favorite decade of film.
You've got great early blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars rubbing shoulders with understated classics like Five Easy Pieces and some other stuff I don't want to think about because man, they're depressing.
Judging by the mood of movies back then, I'm shocked the continental U.S. didn't put on some Bread, plop down in the Gulf of Mexico and slit its wrists sometime around 1978. After watching 1973's The Friends of Eddie Coyle, I sure want to.
Small-time criminal Robert Mitchum is about to serve two to five years in jail for running booze. But he's getting old, and his wife and kids are far from rich. Mitchum will spend his last few weeks doing anything to make sure they come out OK -- whether that means running guns, or tipping the cops to his fellow crooks.
If you can watch The Friends of Eddie Coyle without recognizing it's from the '70s, I'd be interested in hearing what it's like to be raised by wolves. Here are the clues: the cool young guys wear yellow aviators and drive massive Impalas the color of a nauseous lime. The middle-aged guys' comb-overs could have covered the Kingdome. The music is a single guitar string plucked twangily.
But the biggest '70s signifier of them all: The Friends of Eddie Coyle is really, really good.
When it comes to the plot, director Peter Yates doesn't do any hand-holding. Crooks go about their business robbing banks and selling guns, but for me, the wider significance of their actions wasn't clear until nearly an hour in. Granted, I still get tripped up by some of the plot twists in One Fish Two Fish, but I think Yates is plenty content to trust we will eventually puzzle out his story.
Which gives him all the more time to devote long scenes to his minor thugs bargaining, wheedling and berating each other with dialogue that's so hardboiled it could be worn as armor in a George R.R. Martin novel. In fact, between the cracking back-and-forth, the Boston-area setting and the characters playing both sides of the law, The Friends of Eddie Coyle has a definite ring of The Departed to it, minus the super-propulsive editing.
Oh, and the ending. Brace yourself for that one too. The 1970s were not a happy time.
* Contact Ed Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org.