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Film / The Friends of Eddie Coyle

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a 1973 crime thriller directed by Peter Yates, starring Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, and Alex Rocco. It is based on the book of the same name by George V. Higgins. It's based on the real activities of Whitey Bulger's Winter Hill gang, which later inspired The Departed.

Eddie Coyle (Mitchum) is an aging and low-level Boston gangster who is facing a robbery conviction. Desperate to avoid prison, Coyle works with ATF agent Dave Foley to rat out his criminal associates in the hopes that he can earn a lighter sentence. Can Coyle navigate both sides of the law to stay out of prison... and above ground?

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  • Affably Evil: Most of the crooks in Coyle's circle have fairly mild personalities and are usually pretty friendly. Dillon stands out the most.
  • The Alleged Car: The bank robber couple drive an old, primer-covered Grumman-Olson Kurbside van that has seen better days. They're probably living out of it.
  • All for Nothing: Coyle eventually gives up his friends, only to be told they've just been arrested during a robbery so his information is worthless.
  • Anti-Hero: On top of being a crook, Coyle drops a casual n-bomb early in the film to let you know that he's not a good guy.
  • Arms Dealer: Jackie Brown deals in guns, which he purchases from various contacts and sells at a mark-up. He can even get you assault rifles, even though it's a life sentence in Massachusetts.
  • Artistic License – Cars: Jackie claims that his car has a 383 Hemi, but 383 engines are Magnums, not Hemis.
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  • Artistic License – Military: Everyone in the film refers to M-16s as "machine guns," but M-16s are service rifles, while the term "machine gun" is limited to the kind of heavy support weapon designed for sustained fire from a mount or tripod.
  • Badass Driver: That unnamed cop in the maroon Ford Galaxie manages to knock Jackie Brown's Road Runner off course, get around in front of him, and block off the exit to the parking lot to end the pursuit all in a manner of seconds.
  • Bank Robbery: The Scalise gang specializes in robbing banks by kidnapping a bank manager and holding his family hostage.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jackie Brown and the Scalise gang have been caught, but Eddie Coyle, as worthless as he is, gets murdered, while Dillon and the hippie bank robbers get away scot free.
  • The Caper: A large chunk of the first act follows the Scalise gang as they rob a bank.
  • Car Chase: Subverted. Jackie drives a very conspicuous muscle car throughout the film. When he peels out in response to police descending on his location, you'd expect a nice big car chase, but he collides with a cop in a Ford Galaxie, dodges several more cop cars as he barrels toward the exit, then gets boxed in by the exact same Galaxie, ending the chase in a manner of seconds.
  • Cool Car: Jackie Brown's canary-yellow 1971 Plymouth Road Runner. Not exactly subtle.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Coyle speaks wistfully of the great future lying in store for a star Bruins player, little realizing that he has no future himself. The audience knows that he's about to be assassinated.
    • The man who carries out the hit on Coyle turns out to be an informant himself. When asked about Coyle's murder, he naturally claims to know nothing about it.
  • The Film of the Book: A fairly close adaptation of the 1970 crime novel, which had come out only three years prior.
  • Fingore: Coyle describes how the mob will punish someone by making him place his hand in a drawer and then kicking it closed, breaking all of his fingers. This happened to Coyle himself, which is why he's called "Fingers." He claims to have four extra knuckles because of the incident.
  • The Ghost: "The Man" is the local crimelord. He's left unnamed and never appears on screen. We only see his go-between.
  • Happily Married: Coyle is married with three children. In spite of some morning grumpiness, his marriage is perfectly amicable.
  • Honor Before Reason: A bank worker at the second robbery hits the panic button and gets himself killed.
  • In-Series Nickname: Eddie "Fingers" Coyle, because his fingers were broken as a mob punishment.
  • The Informant:
    • Coyle is trying to sell his criminal connections to the ATF in a bid to avoid prison time.
    • Dillon is informing on various criminals to his ATF buddy Foley.
  • The Irish Mob: It's Boston in the 1970s, so the local mob is Irish. They're mostly off-screen, though. The only crooks we see are low-level affiliates and a single go-between who only refers to his boss as "the Man."
  • Karma Houdini: Dillon gets away with both informing on the Scalise gang and murdering Coyle. The hippie couple who want to buy assault rifles to rob banks also get away.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The bank robbers wear different sets of masks during each robbery. The first are transparent masks that obscure their faces but aren't obvious as masks from a distance. The second are creepy-looking old-man masks. The third are simple balaclavas in red, white and blue.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Dillon bares a strong resemblance to Whitey Bulger, who was also a federal informant, a freelance contract killer, and owned a bar through a front. Higgins denied the similarities were intentional, saying he "wrote about Dillon before Whitey became Whitey."
    • Eddie Coyle is a thinly-veiled Expy of William "Billy" O'Brien, one of Whitey Bulger's old bank-robbing associates who had been murdered in 1967. Like Coyle, O'Brien had just been arrested and the newspapers reported that O'Brien's associates were concerned that he might become a turncoat. Like Coyle, O'Brien's murder was never solved. However, radio host and crime writer Howie Carr claims that Coyle is based on Winter Hill gang co-leader Johnny Martorano, whom Mitchum socialized with during filming.
  • No Honor Among Thieves:
    • Even though Coyle is only facing two years, he's willing to drop a dime on all his criminal friends. His only concern is for his safety.
    • Jackie Brown is very paranoid about his clients and sources, fearing for good reason that they may try to rob or arrest him.
  • Outlaw Couple: Pete and Andrea, a young couple, are trying to buy assault rifles to rob banks.
  • Twist Ending: Foley and Dillon are good friends, and Foley doesn't really care about Dillon's criminality.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Scalise has a much more attractive girlfriend, whom he flaunts and brags about to Coyle.
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