One of the best American crime films, in my opinion, was made in 1973, and was based on the book by George V. Higgins, and that was "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." At the conclusion, you are left with the view that with friends like that, who needs enemies? The so-called "honour amongst thieves" mantra, was well and truly blown to smithereens in this picture. Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is a small time Boston villain and supplier of guns to villains. At that moment, a gang is doing the rounds of New England, abducting bank managers from their homes and holding his family as hostages. Coyle has trouble in New Hampshire and is facing a couple of years in jail. So he contacts the local District Attorney (Richard Jordan) and tries to persuade him to help him out. The D.A. says he must help them. Coyle buys a new batch of guns for the bank gang and sees machine guns in the boot of the car, owned by the gun seller (Steven Keats). He is going to sell them on to some young radicals. Coyle passes this information on to the D.A. They set up a trap and catch him. The guy realises that it was Coyle who sold him out.
But despite arresting a man selling machine guns to radicals, the D.A. insists it is not enough to justify him putting a word into the authorities in New Hampshire. Now, if he knew who this gang were....? Coyle spends time in a local bar and gets on well with the bartender (Peter Boyle) The barman is well known in the underworld and is known to be a man you could rely upon. The gang are getting wary of Coyle after receiving a new batch of firearms. The leader (Alex Rocco) warns them all to be vigilant. One of them (Joe Santos) states that Coyle is a stand up guy. The gang enter a house early in the morning, waiting for the occupants to rise. They heard them come downstairs but in walks the D.A. armed, backed up by heavily armed Police. They are convinced that Coyle has sold them out. Coyle approaches the D.A. and offers the gang up. The D.A. puts a newspaper in front of him, telling him he is too late. The gang have been arrested.
Coyle goes to his local bar, drinking and talking to the bartender about the arrests. A telephone call to the bar is from an associate of the gang. The barman tells the caller that Coyle is there making a big thing out of the arrests. Later he meets a man who tells him that Coyle has to go. The barman insists he will do it his way. He takes Coyle out to an ice hockey game, plies him with plenty of drink, and when he falls asleep in the car, the barman shoots him, then makes an exit. The D.A. is out a day or two later, meeting his informant who gave him the gang. It was the barman.
There was no "cor blimey guv!" rhetoric so beloved of the London underworld. There is a massive difference in sentencing in the USA and there is no doubt in my mind that that plays a huge part in villains informing on everybody. Even friends. A dog eat dog world. The film was directed by Peter Yates, previous films were "Robbery" and "Bullitt." The chase scene in Robbery got him the Bullitt job. A truly under rated film.