Monday, 11 November 2019

Movie Review: The Seven-Ups (1973)


A gritty crime action film, The Seven-Ups conveys a deglamourized world of enforcement but stumbles on a shallow story full of faceless characters.

In New York City, police detective Buddy Mannuci (Roy Scheider) heads the small "Seven-Ups" undercover unit using controversial tactics to catch criminals in the act and ensure they receive sentences of seven years or more. After busting a currency counterfeiting operation, Buddy connects with his childhood friend and now mob informant Vito Lucia (Tony Lo Bianco) to extract information about mobster Max Kalish (Larry Haines).

But before Buddy can act, Max is kidnapped and held for ransom by goons pretending to be enforcement agents, just the latest in a series of kidnappings targeting the underworld. With the mob on edge, one of Buddy's team members gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and is killed, shining an unwanted spotlight on the Seven-Ups and enraging Buddy. He leans on Vito and all available sources to finger the killers, but few people can be trusted.

After producing Bullitt and The French Connection, Philip D'Antoni takes over directing duties and recruits Roy Scheider to portray a character inspired by real-life detective Sonny Grosso. The results are patchy. The Seven-Ups does feature a quite magnificent all-Pontiac central car chase sequence, as Buddy's Ventura pursues a Grand Ville driven by a murderous duo, but the plot surrounding the tire screeching action is less than engaging.

The work of the Seven-Ups unit gets quickly marginalized by a rather bewildering and sketched-in bad guys targeting bad guys kidnapping plot, crowded with barely introduced and interchangeable goons being nasty to each other. Buddy Mannuci has to wait on the sidelines for a long time before springing into action, and by the time he gets going D'Antoni has lost momentum and focus.

The second half of the film improves, but Buddy's revenge-driven agenda and predisposition to questionable interrogation tactics leaves the film floundering in a moral void where the real cops, pretend cops and mobsters are all just about equal on the reprehensible scale.

The settings in grim corners of New York are depressingly suitable, D'Antoni finding the necessary wrong side of the tracks, puddle-afflicted streets and ramshackle graffiti-tagged buildings in forgotten industrial zones to host the action, all bathed in gloomy greys and dingy browns.

Roy Scheider wears a stern expression throughout but like the rest of the underpowered cast, has no opportunity to create a man behind the purposeful cop. The Seven Ups occasionally revs its engine, but often forgets to kick into gear.






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