It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Someone remarks of Eddie, about halfway through “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” that for a two-bit hood, he has fingers in a lot of pies. Too many, as it turns out. Without ever rising to the top, Eddie has been employed in organized crime for most of his life. He’s kind of a utility infielder, ready to trade in some hot guns, drive a hijacked truck, or generally make himself useful.
Eddie got the nickname “Fingers” some years ago after a gun deal. The buyers he supplied got caught. Their friends slammed Eddie’s fingers in a drawer. He understood. There is a certain code without which it would be simply impossible to go on doing business.
But as the movie opens, Eddie is in trouble, and it looks like he’ll have to break the code. He’s facing a two-year stretch in New Hampshire, and he wants out of it. He doesn’t want to leave his wife and kids and see them go on welfare. He is, at heart, just a small businessman; he deals in crime but is profoundly middle class. He thinks maybe he can make a deal with the state’s attorney and have a few good words put in for him up in New Hampshire.
The movie is as simple as that. It’s not a high-strung gangster film, it doesn’t have a lot of overt excitement in it, and it doesn’t go in for much violence. He gives us a man, invites our sympathy for him, and then watches almost sadly as his time runs out. And “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” works so well because Eddie is played by Robert Mitchum, and Mitchum has perhaps never been better.