In an absorbing performance Ben Gazzara plays small-time Sunset Strip entrepreneur Cosmo Vittelli, owner of the Crazy Horse West night spot. An obsessive showman, Cosmo navigates a murky world of loan sharks and crooks to keep his club afloat, but when a gambling debt spirals out of control he is blackmailed into accepting a murderous commission. Featuring stand-out turns by Seymour Cassel and Timothy Carey as the underworld racketeers out to fleece Cosmo, John Cassavetes' portrayal of one man's hubristic descent subverts the conventions of its genre to explore the darker side of the American dream.
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie review by Jawbreaker
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You rated this film: 3
This is a visit to the dark side of the strip. For all purposes a decent nightclub owner, who treats his girls and friends well, falls into gambling debt. Setting up a form of repayment that threatens everything. This not only goes against his morals but assists crooks he has come to fear to loathe. Cassavetes has a unique way of directing with many shots seemingly leaving characters out of the shot. Only to pop up on another angle. This disjointed and almost haphazard approach gives Chinese Bookie a real edge. You warm to the main characters and feel immersed in their world. There is no slick seventies LA style here although everyone concerned believes they are living the good life. A great deal of the film is set indoors or takes place at night sets are sparse and dimly lit, you almost wonder what's in the shadows. The seventies are overlooked in cinema yet in the states many interesting films were being released albeit with limited budgets. This is a fine place to start your exploration.