Unit 7 (Groupo 7) – Tribeca Film Festival Movie Review

A little too slick to be a classic, “Unit 7” comes off more as a violent autograph session than a tragic cop drama.

“Unit 7” is emerging director Alberto Rodriguez’s high flying buddy cop drama set in 1992 Seville. With the Seville World Exhibition approaching, the team of four mean-streets musketeers has an impossible task. That is the cleaning up of the drug-ridden streets of the city while avoiding the thunderbolts of lethal power of the corrupt politicians who are in on the take.

Four tough cops who have nobody to count on except themselves must enter into a life and death battle with every sort of addicted miscreant known to man. Can their friendship survive the temptations and physical and mental abuse they must endure daily?

Sound familiar? It is, because you have seen this flick a dozen times from the 1960’s to the new millennium. Not that it is not a good plot line, especially with the right actors. However, be forewarned there is nothing new here.

Among the fearsome four are Mario Casas (“Neon Flesh”) playing the ambitious Angel and Antonio de la Torre as the tough-as-nails Rafael do most of the heavy lifting in the film. Angel is the young stud out to become detective. He is still wet behind the ears and flinches whenever a psychotic drug lord has a knife to his throat. OK, most of us would flinch if a psycho had a knife to our throat.

But the more seasoned and violent Rafael does not flinch. He brutalizes every pervert in the streets of Seville to the point where there seems to be no good side to their existence. Still, they keep coming, one slobbering, dirty, suicidal addict after another. And boy, are we glad they do.

Angel may be young, but he has brains. Maybe too many brains for this kind of business. It is best not to take one’s work too personally, especially when the work deals with a million dollars a day in heroin and coke. He comes up with a good way to get cooperation with the perps.

The only problem is that it is illegal. As the group reluctantly follows Angel on his own self-determined path to fame and fortune, they see their moral compass spinning in increasingly errant directions. Not getting what he needs, Angel becomes more violent and eventually the entire group has to make a decision whether or not to back their blood brothers or search their own souls for the answer to their crisis.

The film features Mahogany, the stereotypical prostitute with a heart as big as a whale. She is also a medium ranked drug dealer who has a few hundred thousand in smack hidden above her living room ceiling tiles at any given time. She is a savvy babe who hands the goods over to whoever needs it, when they need it. The drugs may be used for a bribe or to get the kid the operation he needs.

They may be used to sell or to get cooperation from the right junkie at the right time. It is all part of the game and the disgraced fallen angel Mahogany knows the game better than any of the cops. Like a good woman (at least, in the old country), she lets the men take the lead while she bides her time. In the end, it is up to the men to bring her oppressors to justice.

Along the way, the cops run into the usual assortment of dependent women who either help them or hurt them, usually both. The prostitute addict who means too much to the men and the woman who makes the vicious Raphael see the light. The men always return to each other, no matter how bad things get. They do this not because they love each other but because they have nowhere else to turn. Society hates them as much as the street scum they mangle and throw into the dungeon.

The production is good and slick, and the car chases, gratefully, are few. The foot chases are nothing to write home about and the roof climbs, slides, jumps and falls barely make a five out of ten. The cast and crew were not out to challenge the “French Connection,” but to make a home-brew action flick with heroes this generation could identify. Mario Casas looked like he just stepped out of a J. Crew advertisement and the other three would fit into any beer commercial currently running on TV.

This brings us to the problem with the film. The problem with the film is that there are not enough problems with the actors. They may be playing troubled cops but they are playing troubled cops like actors who are looking for their next paycheck. It is all just a little too pat and a little too slick.

Oh yes, and a little too much the same thing. There needs to be an Ed Norton, a Steve Buscemi or, at least, a Quinton Tarantino somewhere in the mix, but alas, there is not a true misfit in the lot.

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Directed by: Alberto Rodriguez
Written by: Rafael Cobos and Alberto Rodriguez

Starring: Mario Casas, Lucía Guerrero and Antonio de la Torre

Release Date: NA— MPAA: Not Rated
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish w/English subtitles
Color: Color