Coyle’ smooth criminal act is a benchmark of sorts for aspiring criminals, he can’t really understand how Jackie’s vulgar show of strength and boasting can ever earn him a respectful place in the crime-world. His aged experience and wisdom are indispensable, he is sharp and astute - the quintessential bad guy, who started off having his fingers broken as a rookie criminal, for a job gone bad. This earned him the sobriquet Eddie ‘Fingers’ Coyle.
The audience is kept on tenterhooks as the impending doom of Coyle’s career is a tragedy waiting to happen, thus lending a sense of urgency to the plot, exaggerated by the fact that Eddie is awaiting a sentencing. He tries to contribute his bit to being a worthy citizen by helping a detective David Foley (played by Richard Jordan), hoping for a reduction in sentencing; so he considers ratting on his gun supplier to Foley who is more interested in spate of bank heists.
The film exposes the rot in the food chain of the criminal underworld-robbers, gun suppliers, suppliers, middlemen, stool pigeons - all come together to weave the blood smeared fabric of crime. Eddie is playing by a now-extinct rule book; he is blissfully unaware that almost everyone is taking him for a ride! The law enforcement agencies aren’t any less besmirched - Foley meanwhile is being carefully watched by Dillon, who is ratting on him. Vicious circle.
The heists are being headed by Jimmy Scalise (Alex Rocco) and Artie Van(Joe Santos) at suburban banks, Coyle supplies them with guns. The masked gang always takes the bank manager’s family hostage and then ask him to empty the vault, anyone caught pressing alarm buttons is shot – like one poor sod! The gangsters in the film are portrayed as a no good, bloodletting sort - not caring a hoot whether the other person or one of them is killed, having scant regard for their lives. Finally, after all the money and gun laundering, Eddie’s worst fears come true, as he is shot dead with a .22 caliber gun by none other than Dillon and a rookie. Foley thanks Dillon and tells him he’ll understand if the latter doesn’t want to share the details of what happened to Eddie Coley. The film was adapted for stage in 2011 by Bill Doncaster. Truly Mitchum’s best.