After producing The French Connection (1971), Philip D'Antoni hopped into the director's chair for this no-frills companion piece to his previous triumph. Boasting the same gritty atmosphere as the earlier film (haphazard violence, homely character actors, garbage-strewn locations, thick Noo Yawk accents), the procedural was extrapolated from the experiences of real-life French Connection cop Sonny Grosso. Leading man Roy Scheider, yet another connection to Connection because he played a different character based on Grosso in the earlier picture, stands in for the real-life cop once again as a plainclothes detective named Buddy. When Buddy and the rest of his crackerjack unit (the “Seven-Ups” of the title) try to intercept a ring of kidnappers who are causing trouble by grabbing mobsters and holding them for ransom, the unit winds up in hairy situations including a genuinely frightening car chase from the scummy streets of '70s Manhattan to the idyllic curves of the Palisades Parkway. This was back in the post-Bullitt era when action directors were out to top each other’s car-chase sequences with ever more harrowing pursuits, so D’Antoni wisely entrusted his sequence to stunt coordinator Bill Hickman, the guy who previously cracked up cars for the aforementioned Bullitt (1968) and, you guessed it, The French Connection. The picture gets off to an awfully slow start, but be patient: Once that bad guy drives into the car wash, things start to get interesting. The tense dialogue scenes between Scheider and ’70s stalwart Tony Lo Bianco (playing a different role than the one he played in Connection) have a strong vibe, and throughout the picture Scheider is characteristically charismatic, sharpening the skills that turned him into a big-time movie star with Jaws two years after this project. Though short on plot and even shorter on character, The Seven-Ups has just enough action, anxiety, and authenticity to warrant a viewing.
The Seven-Ups: GROOVY