The Friends of Eddie Coyle

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Yates
Screenplay byPaul Monash
Based onThe Friends of Eddie Coyle by
George V. Higgins
Produced byPaul Monash
StarringRobert Mitchum
Peter Boyle
Richard Jordan
Steven Keats
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited byPatricia Lewis Jaffe
Music byDave Grusin
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 26, 1973 (1973-06-26)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a 1973 American neo-noir[1] crime film starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle and directed by Peter Yates. The screenplay by Paul Monash was adapted from the 1970 novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins.

The film tells the story of Eddie Coyle (Mitchum), a small-time career hoodlum in the Irish Mob in Boston, Massachusetts. The title is purely ironic: Eddie has no friends.

While critical reception was positive, with particular praise for Mitchum's performance, the movie was not popular with filmgoers and failed to rank in the top 30 either in 1973 (when it was released mid-year) or 1974, and failed to recoup its budget in combined box office.

Plot[edit]

Eddie Coyle is a low-level gunrunner based in Quincy, Massachusetts. He supplies pistols to a bank robbery crew led by Jimmy Scalise and Artie Van, first obtaining the guns from a fellow gunrunner named Jackie Brown. At the same time, Coyle is facing several years of jailtime for a truck hijacking in New Hampshire set up by Dillon, who owns a local bar that Coyle frequents. Coyle cooperates with ATF agent Dave Foley in order to get his sentencing cleared, but is unaware that Dillon is an informant for Foley; Dillon meets with Foley in person every week to receive $20 from him.

The crew kidnaps Mr. Partridge, the manager of the South Shore National Bank, in order to rob the bank. They are successful and make a clean getaway. Afterward, Coyle meets with Foley to discuss his sentencing. Coyle tells him that he knows a gunrunner, Jackie, that he could potentially have Foley arrest in order to ease the sentencing; Foley sits on this idea. Meanwhile, Jackie meets a hippie couple in Cambridge who wish to purchase M16 rifles off of him. He reluctantly agrees to sell them in a discreet location at a specific time. Jackie then meets with Coyle who requires him to acquire guns for the next day. While unsure at first that he can complete the task, Jackie complies and heads to Rhode Island later that night with an associate to get the guns, which he is successful in doing.

The crew robs a second bank, this time in South Weymouth. Towards the end of the robbery, one of the tellers triggers a silent alarm and is shot dead by one of the robbers, requiring a hasty exit by the crew. They are able to flee without any police following them but become wanted for murder as a result. Afterward, Jackie meets Coyle in the parking lot of a Dedham grocery store to deliver him the guns. Once the exchange is finished, Coyle calls Foley from a payphone to tip him off about Jackie's exchange with the hippie couple at the Sharon train station. There, Foley and a group of agents watch the area from afar with sniper rifles. The couple arrive and Jackie tells them to meet him elsewhere at a later time, as he believes that he is being watched. Once they leave, Foley and his team move in to make the arrest. Jackie recognizes the agents' cars and attempts to flee but is boxed in at the exit and put in handcuffs, immediately realizing that Coyle had set him up.

Coyle and Foley have another meeting, at which Foley says that Jackie's arrest was not enough to clear Coyle's sentence. In preparation for the third robbery, the crew moves in to kidnap the bank's manager but are ambushed by Foley and other ATF agents and placed under arrest. The next day, Coyle decides to tip Foley off about Scalise and his crew but is unaware of their arrest. Foley shows him the arrest in the newspaper and departs, leaving Coyle anguished. Soon after, Dillon is told that a mob boss wants him to assassinate Coyle. Dillon invites Coyle out to a Boston Bruins game at the Boston Garden along with a hood whom Dillon claims is his "wife's nephew". At the game, Coyle becomes severely drunk and eventually passes out during the car ride afterward. The hood drives them to a discreet location, where Dillon shoots Coyle in the head. They swap out cars in the parking lot of a bowling alley and leave.

Dillon and Foley meet outside Boston City Hall the next day, where Foley thanks Dillon for giving him Scalise and his crew. Foley is largely unconcerned that Dillon cannot tell him who murdered Coyle, leaving the impression that he knows Dillon is involved but likely would not have pursued the killing of Coyle himself. After they finish conversing, they walk away in separate directions.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Filming took place throughout the Boston area, including Government Center in Boston, and Dedham, Cambridge, Milton, Quincy, Sharon, Somerville, Malden, and Weymouth, Massachusetts.[2]

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 claimed instead is that cast member Alex Rocco, who grew up in Somerville, introduced Mitchum to Howie Winter of the Winter Hill Gang.[3]

Filming in Dedham[edit]

On October 17, 1972, scenes were shot at the Dedham Plaza, showing W.T. Grant's, Woolworth's, Barbo's Furniture, Liggett's Drugstore, Capitol Supermarket, Friendly's, and Plaza Liquors.[4] A few weeks later, on December 1st, the crew shot the film's opening scene in Dedham Square.[4] The South Shore Bank[a] was the used as the bank robbed in the film.[4] Local businesses including Geishecker's, P.J.'s Pastry Shop, McLellan's, and Gilbert's Package Store can be seen as the movie's bank manager drives through the Square.[4] Mitchum signed autographs for fans in between takes.[4]

Reception[edit]

The Friends of Eddie Coyle was not well received by the filmgoing public. It failed to place in the top 30 in film revenue in 1973[5] (when it was released mid-year)[6] or 1974,[7] and failed to recoup its estimated $3 million budget in combined box office returns. It was, however, well-reviewed by critics, and today is among the most highly regarded crime films of the 1970s by some. Upon its release, 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".[8] Both reviewers singled out Mitchum's lead performance as a key ingredient of the film's success. Ebert wrote: "Eddie Coyle is made for him [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."[9]

On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an 98% approval rating, based on 41 reviews, with an average rating of 8.50/10.

Home media and real life bank robbery[edit]

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.[10]

On June 16, 2009, just a few weeks after the DVD release, the same bank was robbed in a manner reminiscent of how it was done in the film.[4] Delroy George Henry drove up to the bank minutes before it opened.[11][12] He then forced his way in the bank and tried to get the staff to open the vault.[4][12] He also ordered staff to sit on the ground while brandishing a gun, just as was done in the film.[11]

An employee sent a text message to an employee in another branch who then called the Dedham Police Department.[11][12] A police officer working a detail 100 yards away responded quickly and apprehended Henry.[11][12]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ As of 2023, it is a Citizen's Bank.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  2. ^ "Filming Locations for The Friends of Eddie Coyle". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  3. ^ Kimball, George. "Looking Back At An Unlikely Acquaintance With Whitey Bulger". WBUR-FM. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Parr 2009, p. 81.
  5. ^ https://www.the-numbers.com/market/1974/top-grossing-movies "Top Grossing Movies, Annual Movie Chart - 1973", thenumbers.com
  6. ^ https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Friends-of-Eddie-Coyle-The#tab=summary "The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)", thenumbers.com
  7. ^ https://www.the-numbers.com/market/1974/top-grossing-movies "Top Grossing Movies, Annual Movie Chart - 1974", thenumbers.com
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (27 June 1973). "The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (27 June 1973). "The Friends of Eddie Coyle". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  10. ^ "The Friends of Eddie Coyle". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d Parr 2009, p. 82.
  12. ^ a b c d "Well-dressed bank robbery suspect foiled by text". San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2023.

Works cited[edit]

  • Parr, James L. (2009). Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown. The History Press. ISBN 978-1-59629-750-0.

External links[edit]