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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Taking a Hit

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Plot Overview

A well-dressed man walks out his door to take his dog for a walk as he is being observed from a paked car. That done, his garage door opens and he is tailed to Chicago's South Shore National Bank—to the accom­pani­ment of xylophone, silky cymbals, and tapping drum­sticks—where he opens for a new business day. A man in a car casing the bank observes a nervous Wells Fargo delivery, and they're not delivering flowers.

Jimmy Scalise (Alex Rocco), head of a gang specializing in kid­nap­pings and bank robberies, negotiates in a bar to buy some weapons (“I can get you six pieces”) from under­world gopher Eddie “Fingers” Coyle (Robert Mitchum.) Eddie's reliability is vouch­safed by his hand the bad boys mutilated when a job went south through no fault of his own. It was the antici­pation of the punish­ment that hurt the worst.

That reminded him of the school nuns who had him: “Stick your hand out” for a rap on his fingers with a straight edge ruler. One time he didn't stick out his hand, and “She whapped me right across the face with the ruler.” As the gang is using Eddie's weapons to kidnap the families of bank presidents while they get their cooperation to rob their banks before their 9 a.m. opening (“Please don't set off any alarms”), Eddie (“I'm almost 51 years old”) is dreading an upcoming sentencing on a possession-of-stolen-goods rap, where he'll be “looking at three to five,” and having his “wife and kids gotta go on welfare like niggers.” Mean­while, the bar­tender Dillon (Peter Boyle) is feeding info to US Treasury Agent Dave Foley (Richard Jordan), including a tip on Eddie (“Looks like a Mick,”) who in turn will offer up to him an illegal gun dealer Jackie Brown (Steven Keats) as a deal to avoid time for his Massa­chusetts rap (“you maybe talkin' to the prosecutor up there, and havin' him drop a word to the judge”). But as hap­pened with the nun when he tried to avoid taking his medicine, he may get a hit on the head.


Jackie Brown observed: “This life's hard, man, but it's harder if you're stupid!” The way to get un-stupid is to read (and apply) the Proverbs, as by, Prov. 1:7. Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle is heard to remark, “I shoulda known better than to trust a cop. My own g.d. mother coulda told me that.” Detective Foley drolly confirms: “Every­body oughta listen to his mother.” Proverbs continues the thought with, (Prov. 1:8-9) “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and for­sake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” As for Eddie Coyle's selection of friends, we might as well continue reading with (Prov. 1:10-19):

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the inno­cent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious sub­stance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

Sure, there's profit in crime for Eddie, but those arms can kill people, and when we see the thieves forget to cover the camera lens with duct tape, we get an inkling that this robbery is going south on them. Friends like these will be looking for some­one to blame, and it may be Eddie taking the hit instead of his planned (“it's gonna be me goin' to Florida”) retire­ment. The proverbs here are supposed to enlighten a fellow that armed robbery can back­fire, it's best to avoid such endeavors as a bird avoids a net in plain sight. The movie's parallel is a Boston Bruins vs. Black­hawks hockey game at the old Boston Gardens in which a Hawks player is pulled down by a Bruin near the Chicago goal. The subsequent on-ice alter­cation involving the Chicago goalie illustrates how seriously they try to avoid the puck being cata­pulted into that net. Eddie Coyle's remarks on player Bobby Orr (“Can you imagine being a kid like that. What is he, 24 or some­thing. Greatest hockey player in the world. … Geeze, what a future he's got”) illustrate the bright future that's possible to a kid who “listens to his mother.”

Production Values

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973) was directed by Peter Yates who also directed “Bullitt.” The screenplay was written by Paul Monash, based on a novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins. Higgins was both a prosecutor and a defense attorney in his legal career and saw the system from both sides. Yates gave it a minimalist approach with the danger lurking behind the scenes.

It stars Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, and Richard Jordan. Mitchum was a consummate actor and his Chicago accent flaw­less. Peter Boyle played the bartender/hit man Dillon w/a record, being the same Dillon as seen in the 2012 film “Killing Them Softly” but played by a different actor. Jordan played a cop to put you on edge if you aren't that way already. Dave Grusins's score is spot on, if a bit jivey for my taste. Boston location work is well done. Like the snow shovels in a bank president's garage, it'll suggest a chilly climate. Big American cars dominate both visually and audibly. It's rated R.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I enjoyed the movie, being an easy-to-please reviewer. One must pay scrupulous attention to the lineup of characters to follow the plot, as it jumps around some. The acting by the lead was unmatched. The action was minimal, the suspense maximized, and the climax under­stated—the director is British, so it figures. This would be a good movie to show a kid who's contem­plating the gang life.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.