Meeting the Gritty Friends of Mister Coyle

The Friends of Eddie Coyle 1

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, was the debut novel of George V. Higgins, then an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston, published in 1972 which was later adapted into a movie in 1973.  The novel is a realistic depiction of the Irish-American underworld in Boston. Its central character is the title character Eddie “ Fingers” Coyle, a small-time criminal and informant who because of the possibility of facing prison for a second time was forced to weigh his loyalty to his criminal colleagues or snitch against them to maintain his freedom and stay with his family.

There are 3 Main Reasons  why I would recommend watching or re-discovering one of the true treasures of 1970s Hollywood filmmaking—showcasing a relentless realism and unceremonious nature of it characters in comparison to some other gangster novels of the era, particularly Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, a more romanticized look at organized crime which was also adapted to film in 1972.

The Direction of Peter Yates

Peter Yates’ film adaptation of The Friends of Eddie Coyle has been underappreciated compared to his well-known films Robbery (1967) and Bullitt (1968). His masterful direction of the gritty locales in the  underworld of Boston gives as a realistic feel of that time era and an open heart for its non-heroic characters.

Eddie Coyle and his Friends

Watching the film for the first time, I  was pleasantly surprised to witness a star-studded true ensemble piece perfectly blended in this  crime drama.

The great Robert Mitchum known for his more popular roles in Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear and Out of the Past was originally offered the role of the bartender and  gave one of his greatest performance during the twilight of his career as Eddie “Fingers” Coyle.

Of course, he was surrounded by a beautiful array of character actors, many of whom have faded from memory over the years. Richard Jordan (Hunt for Red October,  Logan’s Run, Dune) as Agent Dave Foley ,  Peter Boyle (Taxi Driver, Young Frankenstein, Everybody Loves Raymond)  as the bartender, the sick-looking Steven Keats as Jackie, Jack Kehoe as his connection, the smooth-skinned and bullet-headed James Tolkan (a Sidney Lumet favorite and more popularly known as the Principal in the Back to Future Films ) as the messenger boy for the Man, Joe Santos (who later made a name for himself on The Rockford Files) as a member of the bank heist crew, and his partner played by Alex Rocco (The Godfather). These actors, then in their prime, now signify a lost era. With the notable exception of Boyle, few ever again found roles as good as the ones they play here.

Dave Grusin score

Grusin is an Oscar and Grammy nominated and award winning Composer known  for numerous film scores. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s , my only recollection of his music is the Mountain Dance vynil album. The score of this film reminded me of the 70’s vibe and freedom perfectly blended with the gritty streets of Boston.


The Friends of Eddie Coyle 2


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