The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
John Cassavetes takes a contemporary film noir turn (which he would return to in Gloria) after exploring domestic melodrama in A Woman Under the Influence with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, the owner of a sleazy Los Angeles strip joint, who loses $20,000 at a mob gambling club owned by a small time gangster (Seymour Cassel). Since Cosmo doesn't have the $20,000, he is forced to murder a Chinese bookie in order to clear his debt to the mob. What Cosmo doesn't know is he's part of a set-up. The bookie is actually a West Coast mob boss protected… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"When Cassavetes is really cooking, even the moments that are awkward and forced can become electric."
‑ Jay Cocks, TIME Magazine
"It's rather like a shaggy dog story operating inside a chase movie. Chinese Bookie is the more insouciant, involuted and unfathomable of the two; the curdled charm of Gazzara's lopsided grin has never been more to the point."
‑ Melissa Anderson, Time Out
"This was Cassavetes' attempt to make a film with more commercial elements, but the melding of a conventional narrative with his own abstract musings doesn't completely work."
‑ Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing
"Cassavetes' films can be annoying and enigmatic, but they are usually creative and interesting. Not so with this one."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"A one-of-a-kind gangster drama with an impeccable performance by Ben Gazarra."
‑ Wendy Mitchell, Film4
"John Cassavetes, who made much of his money performing in action films, put that experience to work as the director of this hard, brooding crime drama"
‑ Richard Brody, New Yorker
"Watching the film is like listening to someone use a lot of impressive words, the meanings of which are just wrong enough to keep you in a state of total confusion, but occasionally right enough to hold your attention. What is he trying to say?"
‑ Vincent Canby, New York Times
"With a heavily improvised script Cassavetes gets the most from his actors, each giving emotive performances."
‑ , Empire Magazine
"Heavy stuff, but it takes its sweet sweet time in getting to the point."
‑ Christopher Null,
"A self-indulgent but inventive John Cassavetes written and directed film..."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"There's no cinematography credit, which suggests Cassavetes either added that hat to his writer-director wardrobe, or the real culprit left town ahead of the posse."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"Gazzara plays a strip-club owner committed to staging sad, unsexy, decidedly personal semi-nude musical revues."
‑ Keith Phipps, AV Club
"This is my favorite John Cassavetes movie, perhaps because it's the most appealingly sleazy."
‑ Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
"Its only interest now is in its representation of its era."
‑ Jake Euker, F5 (Wichita, KS)
"Even though this feels relatively streamlined by Cassavetes' standards, I thought it was eminently watchable, if not exceptionally profound."
‑ Jeremy Heilman,
More reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie on Rotten Tomatoes