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 Video and Audio
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.