It stars Robert Mitchum as Eddie “Knuckles“ Coyle, a gunrunner for the Boston mob and, from the minute he steps out of the shadows into a diner to conduct a deal, we wonder what a man his age is still doing working as a low-level gangster. But here he is, well past 50 and facing his second stint in the slammer.
And since Eddie doesn’t want to see his family end up on welfare, he starts dicing tips to Treasury agent Foley (Richard Jordan) in exchange for a good word to the New Hampshire prosecutor. But why should Foley help Eddie out if he has better sources? And does Eddie work with them?
The film is populated by characters with their own agenda and no regard for their associates. This is dog eat dog, and loyalty is for the birds. There’s Eddie’s best friend and bar owner Dillon (Peter Boyle), gun dealer Jackie Brown (Steven Keats), and of course Eddie, and they all have their own asses to cover.
There are no shootouts and no highway chases (though a key scene does take place in a car that, as we’ve learned from many gangster movies, should not--no matter what--slow down or stop) in the film. Instead, director Peter Yates (Bullitt), using a script faithfully adapted from George V. Higgins’ novel, uses dialogue, character, and location to tell the story, which reveals its pieces to the audience and those involved as they fall into place.
Mitchum, Boyle, and Boston have never been better than in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. And if that’s not enough to get you to see it, then how about this piece of dialogue: “Count your fuckin’ knuckles. As many as you got, I got four more. You know how I got those? I bought some stuff from a man, the stuff was traced. The guy I bought it for is in for 15-25 years. He had some friends, I got an extra set of knuckles.”
The Stills Gallery hosts a series of behind-the-scenes photographs from the set, some accompanied by text from Yates.
Also included is a 44-page booklet with an essay on the film by author Kent Jones titled “They Were Expendable,” and Grover Lewis’ Rolling Stone profile of Robert Mitchum, “The Last Celluloid Desperado.”