The Seven-Ups (1973)
The Seven-Ups (1973)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: December 14th, 1973 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Philip D’Antoni Actors: Roy Scheider, Victor Arnold, Jerry Leon, Ken Kercheval, Tony Lo Bianco, Larry Haines, Richard Lynch, Bill Hickman




uddy (Roy Scheider) is on an undercover stakeout, causing a disruptive scene in an antiques shop. It’s a setup with a team of associates (including Ansel [Ken Kercheval], Mingo [Jerry Leon], and Barilli [Victor Arnold]), who successfully bust a pair of counterfeiters. They operate under the radar (or above the law) and without the standard procedures of probable cause, warrants, and proper interrogations – which makes many fellow cops uneasy. Nevertheless, these “Seven-Up” officers – part of a highly secretive investigative unit that targets crimes that garner seven or more years for convictions – do the necessary dirty work that doesn’t muster positive press or medals.

Their next assignment involves informant Vito (Tony Lo Bianco), who provides Buddy with some information on Max Kalish the shylock (Larry Haines). But just as they’re about to dig into his dealings, he’s kidnapped by mobsters Moon (Richard Lynch) and Bo (Bill Hickman, the legendary stuntman doing all his own driving), posing as detectives, demanding a sizable ransom that is collected quite sneakily. When bail-bondsman Festa (Matt Russo) disappears soon after, Buddy begins to realize that someone is orchestrating a string of extortions from the New York mob, fueling a war between the police and the wiseguys.

Don Ellis’ music, full of screeching violins and dissonant sounds, continually denotes horror movie thrills – as if a monster is about to pounce on unsuspecting prey. It’s coincidentally similar to the score in “Marathon Man” (a few years later), generating a perpetual sense of unease. It’s entirely effective, hinting at sudden violence or action – the kind brimming with suspense. It also contributes to the grittiness and rawness of the picture, which doesn’t attempt to glamorize the tense interactions between the law and gangsters.

Arriving shortly after “The French Connection,” “The Seven-Ups” boasts a spectacular car chase sequence, which carries on for longer than its peers, and features numerous location changes and plenty of destruction. Not only is it edited together deftly, managing some hair-raising stunts, but it also looks as if shot without permits or permission. The realism is exceptional.

Sadly, the mystery components of the film are revealed virtually from the start, which means that the audience doesn’t have to solve anything; only the detectives onscreen have to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. And it takes them a considerable portion of the running time to do it. From there, it shifts into a waiting game for a proper showdown – and another chase, this time on foot. The finale packs the same punch, steeped in neo-noir dourness, marking “The Seven-Ups” as a tonally consistent, entertainingly bleak crime drama.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10