Far from the usual glamorized Hollywood image of criminals, everyone here is a snitch, a backstabber, a thief or about to go down with barely a penny to their name. It's a tough, unsentimental look at the world of crime, the shots are somewhat bleak and harshly lit, and even the action sequences, while still tense, are non-stylized.
Mitchum, who I adore in anything, is superb as the weary and desperate Coyle. Director Peter Yates, whose resume is uneven (he helmed the iconic Bullitt, the weird Mother, Juggs and Speed and Krull but later served time on a sentimental D.B. Sweeney vehicle), is also at his best.
The film is based on a best selling novel by George V Huggins, who was a major influence on James Ellroy.