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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Seven-Ups (Blu-ray)
The Seven-Ups (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // R // March 20, 2018 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 10, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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Inside the New York City Police Department, a group of detectives work in secret to try and crack down on some of the city's tougher criminals. The team takes their name, The Seven-Ups, from their M.O.: all of their targets are perps with rap sheets that will net them seven or more years in prison. The head of the squad, Buddy (Roy Scheider), gets his tips from an inside man, a mid-level mobster named Vito Lucia (Tony Lo Bianco) that Buddy believes he can trust thanks to a friendship that dates back to when they were kids. Unfortunately for all of them, everything goes out the window when a pair of independent mercenaries named Moon (Richard Lynch) and Bo (Bill Hickman) start kidnapping members of the mob that The Seven-Ups are trying to surveil.

It's generally considered bad form to compare one movie to another as a means of criticism, but The Seven-Ups seems to demand it. A 1973 police thriller featuring a spectacular centerpiece chase sequence, about cops sliding outside the scope of the law in unflinching pursuit of a particular collar, the film is clearly modeled on the success of William Friedkin's The French Connection. Scheider, co-star of that film, takes over the starring role here, and multiple members of the cast and crew, including director Philip D'Antoni, who produced The French Connection, reappear in similar or identical roles in front of and behind the camera. The film was made at the same studio, 20th Century Fox, and even the poster, featuring Scheider decisively pointing his gun at the viewer, echoes the ads depicting the end of Connection's iconic chase, of Gene Hackman firing up an E-train stairwell at his target.

Unfortunately, Seven-Ups proves that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery in the worst way -- every choice reinforces that Connection is the superior film. While The Seven-Ups has a workable story at the center of it, set in motion by a stakeout gone wrong at a funeral home where the Seven-Ups are looking into the kidnappings, the script by Albert Ruben and Alexander Jacobs is too loose and meandering, making a reasonable 107-minute runtime feel longer than two hours. The film is packed with scenes that may provide necessary expository detail, but none of them are particularly interesting from a character standpoint, leaving the audience waiting for Ruben and Jacobs to pull all the strands they've set up into a compelling drama.

For a little while, during the movie's midpoint, the film starts to pay off. Although the film's lengthy chase sequence is an obvious highlight (even though the sequence, by Hickman, does kind of feel like a mash-up of his two most famous efforts, Bullitt and Connection, rather than something new), the whole sequence is compelling from beginning to end, starting with the stakeout at the funeral home and including the conversations between various mob members happening inside. However, the film peters out again shortly after the sequence ends. D'Antoni and his screenwriters want to depict cops losing sight of their moral code, but an early scene with an by-the-book officer (Robert Burr) implies that the audience should already believe the cops have crossed the line. An opening sequence doesn't really sell their underhanded ways, so the rest of The Seven-Ups feels more like a revenge story than a moral quandary.

Scheider is good in the lead role, but even his sincere efforts come off as adrift within the context of the disconnect between the screenwriters' intentions and the finished product. It doesn't help that the supposedly warm friendship between Buddy and Vito never really lands either, making Vito's betrayal of Buddy feel more like Buddy being naive than a friend stabbing another friend in the back. Vito's complicity in what happens is sometimes vague, although it's clear he's playing both sides, keeping certain mobsters safe from certain types of exposure. In the end, only Richard Lynch makes a real impression, thanks to a fiery demeanor and his naturally striking, slightly unusual appearance. Although Lynch is saddled with a stock character -- the greedy criminal who won't listen to reason when it comes to laying low -- he has enough presence to make for a good central villain despite seeming like a small fish in the New York crime scene. Honorable mention goes to Joe Spinell, who is also instantly recognizable in a bit part as a garage employee.

The Blu-ray
How times change. Once upon a time, I'd have been a stringent advocate for theatrical poster artwork on Blu-ray covers, especially for older films. While that's still largely true, I have to admit I'm pretty underwhelmed by the dull painted poster artwork for The Seven-Ups, which looks dated in a bad way (and which looks embarrassingly low-res). The newly-designed graphic that graces the front cover of the customary liner notes booklet by Julie Kirgo would've made a better cover. The one-disc release comes in a clear-colored Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and the design follows Twilight Time's usual template.

The Video and Audio
20th Century Fox has provided Twilight Time with a 1.78:1 1080p AVC transfer that ranks among the best-looking I've seen from either company. A healthy grain field is present, untampered. Fine detail is impressive throughout, lending depth to the image. The picture also appears free of the teal and orange push that sometimes creeps into otherwise well-done masters for older films, leaving skintones properly rendered and the overall palette naturalistic. Contrast may be a touch strong, but it's a very minor quibble. Sound is an accurate but unsurprisingly straightforward DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track, which sounds mostly good, although there is some natural muffling and an obviousness to several scenes which were clearly looped in post-production. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also provided.

The Extras
A raft of archival extras, most of which are new to American shores, are provided. Last year, UK distributor Signal One Entertainment produced a full-blown special edition of The Seven-Ups, and all of that quality content has been ported over to Twilight Time's release. These extras include a audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith, an introduction (0:10) and featurette, "The Seven-Ups Connection" (21:32) with director Philip D'Antoni, "A Tony Lo Bianco Type" (18:09) featurette interviewing the supporting actor, a featurette with technical advisor Randy Jurgensen called "Real to Reel" (24:50), a piece on the stunt driving called "Cut to the Chase" (13:53), a peek into "Randy Jurgensen's Scrapbook" (2:58), and a cut-down Super 8 Version (16:19) of the film (not mentioned on Twilight Time's packaging). Also on tap: a vintage featurette from 20th Century Fox's US DVD, "Anatomy of a Chase: Behind the Scenes of the filming of The Seven-Ups" (8:20), and marketing materials, including a Lobby Cards, Stills, and Media Gallery and two original theatrical trailers.

However, Twilight Time has done Signal One one better by including one additional set of extras: both their traditional Isolated Score track in DTS-HD MA 2.0, and an Isolated Unused Score by composer Johnny Mandel, also presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0.

Conclusion
The Seven-Ups is a decidedly inferior imitation of The French Connection, one of the greatest thrillers of all time. Although it boasts a similarly spectacular car chase, the elements just don't come together to make the rest of the movie as compelling. That said, Twilight Time have produced a disc that will certainly satisfy fans of the film, porting over a raft of bonus features from the UK and throwing a couple additional ones on to boot. Rent it.


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