Monday, August 11, 2008
#45: The Seven-Ups
Directed by Philip D'Antoni
Written by Albert Ruben and Alexander Jacobs (from a story by Sonny Grosso)
Released December 14, 1973
Not to be confused with the 1964 documentary Seven Up!, The Seven-Ups is an all-but-forgotten early '70s crime film starring Roy Scheider (Jaws, All That Jazz) as a cop hunting down the person or persons responsible for the murder of one of his partners.
Scheider and his cohorts are part of the Seven-Ups, a secret crew of NYPD officers that uses questionable tactics to catch criminals seemingly out of reach from the usual arm of the law. (Their name comes from the minimal length of time their arrests will serve in prison: seven years or up.)
Scheider's crew is mistakenly blamed for a rash of kidnappings where mob kingpins are captured and held for ransom by men posing as police officers. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of mystery to this crime thriller, so we can pretty much see where it's heading from the moment Scheider's partner is killed.
More criminal than the film's predictability, though, it's just how damned drab the whole thing looks. There's virtually no color, no eyecatching scenery and no really impressive shots. There's very little keeping it from looking and feeling like a made-for-TV movie.
Well, there is one thing that raises The Seven-Ups above a certain level of forgetability: the tense, white knuckle car chase that occurs about halfway through the movie. Assembled by the same team of stunt drivers and coordinators that put together two of the greatest car chases in the history of film (Bullitt and The French Connection), this ten minute sequence belongs in the pantheon of all-time great chase scenes. It's a damn shame the rest of the movie, both preceding and following, can't live up to the intensity of this scene.
There are some good moments (like Scheider's character interrogating via the threat of death a mobster in his hospital bed) and some solid acting, but there's just no art to the thing. One of the final scenes of the movie, where the Seven-Ups hunt the movie's main killer, ends so lamely that you catch yourself wondering, "Is that really all there is?"
If you find yourself with the DVD on hand some night, check out the unintentionally hilarious "making of the scene" documentary about the car chase. The featurette was made at the time the film was made, so the Boogie Nights-era porn-esque narration can't help but make you laugh. It's pretty incredible when you learn that the chase scene took weeks to film. It's too bad the rest of the movie wasn't pored over with such intent.
For more on The Seven-Ups:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia
- Buy the DVD cheap at Amazon.com.
- Roy Scheider was a damn fine actor, and was never better than in All That Jazz, a "musical" I regrettably forgot to mention the other night when I was bashing the genre. Check out this Sheider fan site for more.
The official movie trailer, on YouTube: