Director: Peter Yates
Writer: Paul Monash
Cinematographer: Victor J. Kemper
By Jon Cvack
This might enter into the top 10 most underrated films I’ve rarely heard of. I came across the title here and there, always recognizing the Criterion cover, but it was after watching Ben Affleck’s “The Town” and its making of where Affleck mentioned this film’s influence on the story that I bumped it up in my Netflix queue. I now have a bit less appreciation for that film (less in the sense of taking a couple of sprinkles of a birthday cake), mostly for the fact that FoEC makes the masks and 'cool' dialogue in The Town seem a bit uninspired,
The story involves old man Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum, in one of his all time greatest roles, think his classic Crossfire/Murder, My Sweet Philip Marlow, told within a highly realistic manner) who’s currently under investigation for driving a truck of stolen goods, and hoping to get the heat off his back. As side work he’s running guns for a mafia-backed series of bank robberies. His one friend is a fellow ex-con and current bartender, Dillon (Peter Boyle). Unbeknownst to either party, both are talking to the cops about all the activity that’s going on.
Meanwhile the gunrunner, Jackie Brown (Stephen Keets; hmm, what a familiar name..), is a highly paranoid and intelligent guy, who’s dealing with both Eddie and a married couple living out of an old ice cream truck. So the guns go from Jackie Brown to Eddie to the bank robbers, all while Eddie is swayed by the ATF to reveal some information in the hopes that he could get off the stolen goods wrap, while Dillon is trying to stay clean.
What makes me this movie so incredible is that it takes some badass dialogue and action, integrating them within a naturalistic story. The fall weather creates a chill through each and every scene. True to noir, there’s a feeling that each person is doomed or cursed, and simply biding time while they’re on the road to damnation. Contrary to The Town, there’s no romance here. Just heartache, and the tail end of a life of bad decisions. The robberies aren’t exciting, or badass. They’re terrifying. Initially we’re not sure who’s wearing the masks. And against a gray sky and a broken town, we’re not sure what they’re going to do. There’s no redemption; there’s no one who’s really all that cool; except for Eddie, and even he turns on us. It’s rare that I resent a character in a movie so much. For eight months of jail, he could have kept quiet and maintained his life. But he wanted more. He wanted Florida.
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