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  Seven-Ups, The The Chase Is Afoot
Year: 1973
Director: Philip D'Antoni
Stars: Roy Scheider, Victor Arnold, Jerry Leon, Ken Kercheval, Tony Lo Bianco, Larry Haines, Richard Lynch, Bill Hickman, Lou Polan, Matt Russo, Joe Spinell, Robert Burr, Rex Everhart, David Wilson, Ed Jordan
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is Buddy (Roy Scheider). He's a Seven-Up. That means he is part of an elite crimefighting unit in New York City who are guaranteed to get the mobsters they catch prison sentences of seven years and up, and today he is waiting for one of the criminals they have been trailing for a while to show up and meet his contact. Suddenly, Buddy is alert as his man hoves into view, and he follows him into an antique dealer's shop, trying not to attract any attention as he pretends to be another customer as the delivery man goes upstairs to hand over a box full of counterfeit bills. But they're not going to get away with that...

Philip D'Antoni is an interesting chap in the world of movies, as each of the three cinema projects he produced featured what car chase connoisseurs regard as the examples of best vehicular pursuits ever to appear in a film. There are pretenders to that throne, but who among us who like such sequences has much to complain about when Bullitt and The French Connection are mentioned? They're classics of their kind, and D'Antoni was the man who brought them to the screen, but not quite as well known is this film, his final one and only to be directed by him, The Seven-Ups, which again featured legendary stunt driver Bill Hickman's arrangements in the action sequences, as those previous two had.

Of course, Hickman is just as deserving of credit for those scenes as D'Antoni is, because it was he who worked them out, and in some ways his car chase for Scheider here was the pinnacle of his art, melding as it did the best bits of the other couple of efforts he had done so well to fashion a high octane hybrid. It was clear that D'Antoni was keen to emulate the award-winning success of The French Connection, and hired Scheider again to take what was essentially the Gene Hackman role here, but perhaps he was too enthusiastic about aping his last hit as there was a touch of the carbon copy about the goings-on in this. On the one hand, you might feel as if you've seen it all before, on the other, the producer and his team assuredly knew what they were doing.

And they knew how to concoct a gritty police thriller, which for fans of this kind of thing, is the ideal entertainment. Something about knowing those stunts were as real as they could make them without actually killing somebody, something about that urban seventies atmosphere, something about the whole attitude of these movies: you can see why they're so revered in certain quarters, even the ones that could not in all honesty be described as all-time classics. Here the plot revolves around a group of hoods kidnapping gangsters who have appeared on the Seven-Ups' hit list, but what Buddy doesn't know is how the hoods got hold of their information.

Although perhaps if he looked closer to home he may hit upon the source. No, there isn't a Seven-Up behind it, but one of Buddy's informers, his childhood friend, now an undertaker, Vito Lucia (Tony Lo Bianco, also returning from The French Connection). Can he work out what is happening before it's too late and his whole operation is blown? And can he get the internal affairs department off his back because they think it is he and his crew who are behind the kidnapping? That's what concerns the story, but what will most likely concern you is how cool this all looks in spite of, or perhaps these days because of, its frequent lapses into cliché. Backing up Scheider are such cult bad guys as Joe Spinell as the worker at the sinister car wash, and Richard Lynch as one of the kidnappers, just the kind of seedy characters you want to see the good guys prevail over, but this is really Hickman's film: that car chase is quite something. Great music by Don Ellis, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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