The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a beautifully sad little film that packs a tremendous punch. A gangster film on the surface, it's really a character study, an examination of a little man with little dreams, a guy just trying to keep his head above water when all the bigger guys are making waves that threaten to engulf him. That the man in question is a small-time hood and the bigger guys are amoral policemen and immoral gangsters means his efforts are futile -- and imbues his story with a melancholic poetry. Coyle is a loser, and he pays the price that losers in his line of work have to pay -- but director Peter Yates and adapter Paul Monash make this disreputable character into a man that tugs at a viewer's heartstrings, even as the viewer is appalled by him. Monash's screenplay is a marvel of economy, skillfully creating entire histories out of a few telling lines and employing a few carefully selected phrases to give reams of information. Yates' direction is taut, moody, and elegiac, yet it knows how to move at full throttle during the action sequences. The film's biggest asset, however, is the incredible performance by Robert Mitchum. World-weary to the extreme, this is a man who has seen it all and is tired of it all -- but who prefers to not give it up. Constantly struggling between determination and resignation, Mitchum is a man whose entire life is a series of dilemmas and struggles; the viewer can practically see the trials and difficulties physically eroding him. It's an understated and marvelous performance. Mitchum is joined by an absolutely perfect Peter Boyle and a magnificent Richard Jordan -- but it's Mitchum's picture, and he gives it melancholy, desperate life -- and in abundance.