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|The Friends of Eddie Coyle|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Yates|
|Produced by||Paul Monash|
|Screenplay by||Paul Monash|
|Based on||The Friends of Eddie Coyle by |
George V. Higgins
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Edited by||Patricia Lewis Jaffe|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$1 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a 1973 crime film directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. The screenplay by Paul Monash was adapted from the 1970 novel of the same name by George V. Higgins.
Eddie Coyle (a.k.a. "Eddie Fingers") is an aging delivery truck driver for a bakery. He is also a low-level gunrunner for a crime organization in Boston. He is facing several years in prison for a truck hijacking in New Hampshire set up by Dillon, who owns a local bar. Coyle's last chance is securing a sentencing recommendation through the help of an ATF agent, Dave Foley, who demands that Coyle become an informer in return. Unbeknownst to Coyle, Dillon is an informer for Foley.
A gang led by Jimmy Scalise and Artie Van has been pulling a series of bank robberies in broad daylight using hostages, Coyle having supplied them with pistols. Another gun runner, Jackie Brown, is supplying Coyle, who demands more guns from him as the gang ditches their pistols after each job and needs a fresh supply for each heist. Jackie goes to great lengths to get Coyle what he needs while taking an order from a young hippie couple shopping for machine guns (actually M16 rifles). Coyle finds out about the machine guns when he picks up the pistols from Jackie and offers to set up Jackie for Foley to avoid jail. In a dramatic scene at a train station's parking lot, arriving to deliver the machine guns, Jackie is arrested by Foley and his team.
Coyle meets with Foley and argues that he has fulfilled his end of the deal, but Foley claims his superiors don't agree. More information is required from Eddie or else he'll still go to prison. A bank worker has been killed during a heist by the Scalise-Van crew and they are now wanted for murder. In desperation, Coyle decides to inform on his friends Scalise and Van, but by then Foley, acting on a tip supplied by Dillon, has already caught the gang in the act of executing a heist. Foley tells Eddie his information offer was too late and he therefore cannot make a deal for leniency.
Meanwhile, Dillon meets with an intermediary of "The Man", the mob boss, in the parking lot of an MBTA station. Dillon is eager to finger Coyle for betraying Scalise and Van, but it turns out the Mob already have Coyle's name as Scalise believes Eddie snitched on him. Dillon convinces the intermediary that he was afraid that Coyle was going to inform on him to stay out of jail. Dillon frames Coyle for informing on Scalise and Van, convincing the Mob of Coyle's guilt. "The Man" wants Coyle done away with immediately, by nightfall, and offers the contract to Dillon because of Dillon's reputation as a "good" hit man. Dillon insists on $5,000 upfront for killing Coyle. The intermediary tells Dillon he will get back to him after talking to "The Man".
A despondent Coyle arrives at Dillon's bar, knowing that prison is now inevitable. While Eddie gets drunk, he and Dillon discuss the arrest of Scalise and Van. Dillon then takes a phone call from the mob confirming the contract and the upfront payment. To set up the hit, which has to be carried out that night, Dillon tells Eddie that the phone call was from a friend who can't make it to the Boston Bruins hockey game that night. Dillon offers to treat Eddie to a night on the town, taking him to dinner and the Bruins game to "forget your troubles."
At the Boston Garden, Eddie is becoming increasingly drunk. After he leaves to use the restroom and get another round, Dillon is joined by a young man he has told Eddie is his "wife's nephew" who will be joining them at the game, but who is late. In reality he is a young hood who is being groomed by Dillon and will be in on the hit. When Eddie returns to the seats, he is sloppy drunk and sentimental. He soliloquizes about Bobby Orr, the hockey great who helped lead the Bruins to two Stanley Cup victories in 1970 and 1972 (the latter the year the film was made in Boston).
Can you imagine being a kid like that? What is he, 24 or something? Greatest hockey player in the world. Number four – Bobby Orr. Geeze, what a future he's got, huh?
Eddie has no future; he will soon be dead and the future belongs to the young hoodlum who is Eddie's potential replacement as a criminal associate of Dillon.
After the game, Dillon and the young hood exit the Garden with an inebriated Coyle as Dillon explains that he has arranged an assignation with a couple of girls in Brookline. Eddie is equivocal and tells Dillon he has parked his car in the South End. The "nephew" offers to give them a lift. In the car, Dillon asks a drunk and sleepy Eddie where his car is parked, but Eddie does not respond, having fallen asleep. Dillon gives instructions to the young hood on how to drive out of the city to Quincy. As Dillon explains the machinations of the hit and the young hood's payoff, the drunk Eddie sleeps in the front passenger seat; using a .22 caliber revolver, Dillon shoots Coyle inside the moving car. They leave the car containing Eddie's body outside a bowling alley on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester and split up.
In the final scene that underlines the bleakness of the story, Foley meets with Dillon at the Boston City Hall plaza and thanks him for giving him Scalise and Van. Foley is largely unconcerned that Dillon cannot tell him who murdered Coyle, leaving the impression that he knows Dillon is involved but remains too useful to pursue for the murder of a petty criminal such as Eddie Coyle.
During the making of the film, Mitchum was interested in meeting the local gangsters as part of his research. Journalist George Kimball, a sports writer on the Boston Herald at the time, claimed that Mitchum wanted to meet Whitey Bulger and was warned against it by Higgins. What is known is that cast member Alex Rocco, who grew up in Somerville, introduced Mitchum to Howie Winter of the Winter Hill Gang.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle was well-reviewed on its initial release and continues to be among the most highly regarded crime films of the 1970s. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it four stars, his highest rating, while Vincent Canby of The New York Times also reviewed it favorably, calling it "a good, tough, unsentimental movie". Both reviewers singled out Mitchum's lead performance as a key ingredient of the film's success. Ebert wrote: "Eddie Coyle is made for [Mitchum]: a weary middle-aged man, but tough and proud; a man who has been hurt too often in life not to respect pain; a man who will take chances to protect his own territory."
The Criterion Collection released a special edition DVD of the film on May 19, 2009. It included a director's commentary by Peter Yates, who died less than two years after the DVD came out. Criterion released a Blu-ray version on April 28, 2015.
The book has also been adapted into a stage play by Bill Doncaster; Stickball Productions held a staged reading in Somerville, Massachusetts, on November 13, 2010, and launched a full production in December 2011.
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