THE SEVEN-UPS (1973)
Rating: 3 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here
Directed by: Philip D'Antoni
Starring: Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Richard Lynch and Joe Spinell
THE PLAN: A small group of New York City cops, who strictly target criminals whose crimes are egregious enough to warrant at least seven-year stretches in prison (hence the nickname "The Seven-Ups"), find themselves in uncharted territory when it appears as though a new player is in town: Someone bold enough to kidnap mob bosses and sell them for ransom to their own crews.
THE KILL: One year after William Friedkin's gritty, uncompromising FRENCH CONNECTION made a splash with its take-no-shit cops and intense street action, THE SEVEN-UPS made a mark of its own while treading similar territory. The fact that its director, Philip D'Antoni, was a producer on FRENCH CONNECTION - not to mention its star Roy Scheider, was the secondary lead in that Oscar winner - didn't hurt its association with the movie that made Popeye Doyle a household name. But it's THE SEVEN-UPS' focus on realistic sleaze, weary detectives and hair-raising chase sequences that make it a worthy pseudo sequel to Friedkin's immortal masterpiece, even if it doesn't exactly take place in the same world..
Scheider plays Buddy, a hard-line New York cop heading up a very small (and quite unpopular) group of undercover officers who investigate assorted mobsters, crooks and thieves. They do things their way, which of course isn't looked kindly upon by the superiors or their fellow officers. But when the going gets tough - and it does - the Seven-Ups chase it down and read it it's rights! (That was probably a tagline at one point.).
Roy Scheider did not make for the best Ménage à trois partner...
The case they're on when we catch up with them here is an interesting one: Someone with balls of brass is kidnapping high-ranking mobsters and holding them for ransom. While Buddy and his crew attempt to put the finger on the fearless crooks, the mob guys commence planning their own revenge.
What's neat about THE SEVEN-UPS as a film pretty much takes on the personality of the Scheider character: It's no-nonsense, without much flash or wit, but it gets the job done. While not exactly an action extravaganza, the film does contain a few crackling sequences, including a terrific car chase that begins in New York and ends up in New Jersey, as Buddy chases down the two thugs (one of which is played by the irreplaceable Richard Lynch) who shot one of his partners. Yes, it's another thing that will remind you of THE FRENCH CONNECTION, but it's so vividly entertaining that you won't mind.
If there's a problem with the movie that I have it's that the main villain is pretty weak. I won't spoil his identity here (even though it's revealed fairly early on), but I just don't buy this guy as a mastermind, tough enough to go up against the mob and the cops. I also don't buy that Scheider's character isn't smart enough to finger him sooner.
But I suppose that's a minor quibble against an otherwise solid picture. D'Antoni keeps the pace brisk, the city is photographed (by SHAFT D.P. Urs Furrer) in a realistic and unglamorous light, and the cast - aside from Scheider - is indistinct and workmanlike - and I mean that in a good way. For a no-frills cop drama that delivers the goods, you can't go wrong with THE SEVEN-UPS.
Richard Lynch always took surprise parties way too seriously...
TOP ACTION:The extremely long, massively impressive car chase sequence that extends from New York into New Jersey has got to be one of the greatest ever committed to film. They sure don't make them like this anymore.
TOP DEATH: A few dudes get plugged by an assortment of bullets, but nothing special to speak of. (Although, as is always true in movies like this, the main villain's death is a most excellent moment.)
TOP DIALOGUE: (While the watch a funeral) Barelli: "Respect for the dead is considered very important. You know that."
Buddy: "Should show as much for the living."
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Nada... No, seriously, I can hardly recall a pair of breasts at all.
DRINKING GAME: Drink whenever you wish Roy Scheider would just scream "Smile you sonofabitch!" at the punks he's up against.
TRIVIA: This was Philip D'Antoni's only directorial effort.
This was Richard Lynch's second film role; he went on to play a gaggle of heinous bad guys, including villains in INVASION U.S.A, BAD DREAMS and THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER.