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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [VHS] (1976)

Ben Gazzara , Timothy Carey , John Cassavetes  |  R |  VHS Tape
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ben Gazzara, Timothy Carey, Seymour Cassel, Robert Phillips, Morgan Woodward
  • Directors: John Cassavetes
  • Writers: John Cassavetes
  • Producers: Al Ruban, Phil Burton
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Touchstone Video
  • VHS Release Date: September 19, 1995
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6302794307
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,167 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nuanced character study of a sleazeball. November 30, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
If you like Cassavettes' stuff, you will love this finally developed tale of an aging strip club owner in 1970s LA. If you would like to try this American original, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie might be the best place to start as it is possibly Cassevettes' most accessible film.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and sadly neglected film February 28, 2000
"The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is one of my all time favourite films and I bought it the moment I saw it was on DVD. However the DVD is quite dissapointing considering it is not in widescreen (even though it doesn't really suffer from cropping) and the picture and sound quality are quite dodgy. Nevertheless it is a brilliant and powerful film that contains an excellent performance from Ben Gazzara as well as some very memorable scenes and visuals. This is surely a films that deserves a place in any true film buffs DVD collection.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is John Cassavetes' contribution to the downbeat neo-noir style of the 1970s. Cassavetes wrote and directed this story of a hard-working strip club owner whose ego lands him in hot water with the mob. Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) has finally paid off the debt on his club, and he celebrates by donning a tux and taking three of his lovely ladies to a private gambling club for an elegant evening. High on his own success, Cosmo runs up a debt of $23,000. The club's underworld owners say they will erase his debt if Cosmo kills a bookie in Chinatown who has been cutting into their business. "I may be stupid, but I'm not a fool," Cosmo replies.

This film has a languorous pace, to put it mildly. A lot of time is spent tooling around Los Angeles with Cosmo and watching the absurd burlesque shows at his club that seem entirely devoid of entertainment value. I did not become comfortable with the pace until an hour into the film, and I think it would have benefited from cutting 20 minutes. Dialogue is spare and almost unnecessary until the film's final minutes. The story is told visually, primarily through Cosmo's actions. That's a good thing, because the dialogue is often mumbled, and the volume is erratic. I don't know if that's a problem with this transfer or if the actors weren't miked properly.

In spite of pacing and sound problems, I really like Ben Gazzara's performance. Cosmo is a sleaze, but a lesser sleaze than those around him. He is completely committed to his business to the point of checking up on it while on his way to commit a murder. He's a self-made man with more savvy than his gambling debt would imply, embittered by the mobsters who suddenly control his destiny, but ultimately bemused by his predicament. The villains are an odd lot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best I have seen April 19, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This is a great starter into John Cassavette's films. If you have not seen any of his films, start here. Casavettes has made a masterpiece that truly looks at life and not the glorification of life. No Hollywood over-dramatisation here. The people are sleeze and yet out of the sleeze comes a story. This must have been a very big influence to Quentin Tarantino in making Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Nipper
Ben Gazzara's character is a classic in this story of a strip club owner's troubles with the underworld. It's one of my favorites too with its dark and sleazy atmosphere and the characters that drive this story. The gangsters are not cartoon characters. They actually have personalities. In fact, this film has many colorful characters. The Criterion version is longer and exposes more of this tawdry world but it is part of an expensive five film collection. This film deserves to be seen in the longer version.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
this is jc's best, most subtle and least forced film. it's ability to engender empathy for a smarmy stripjoint owner is powerful. of course its settings are outdated, and its underground mores hard to understand, but it's also a simple, brilliant and moving allegory about life.

it goes without saying that if you're curious about jc, you've done your homework, and don't need to be told that he's slow, random and often unclear. you just need further proof that he and his coterie of performers made some of the deepest excavations of the human being ever filmed (which get panned as letargic, plotless bores by those with teevee attention spans) and you won't be disappointed by this one.

don't expect to be wowed by dialogue, or filmmaking techniques, or art direction or any of that. but do expect to feel like you're participating in something, rather than watching it. do expect to find things about gazzara's character that aren't just redeeming, but admirable, even loveable.

the dressing room pep talk--as far removed as it is from anything i've ever experienced--is just as profound as it is barely coherent. utterly real. it's what you've always wanted your dad, or your religious leader or cultural figure of authority to say, and mean it. it's the acknowledgement of one's own weakness, and how these weaknesses actually give us strength and character, rather than the boring, puffed-up and meaningless facades we all create for the public sphere.

not macho bs here, no pretense, no phony hollywood whitetrash costumes, no romanticized violence, and most importantly:

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Movie of his Own
It's okay but just not my type of movie. Rather slow-moving and at times boring.. Ben Gazzara was very good in his role but it did not help hold my interest. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bette L.
3.0 out of 5 stars so-so
I don't know, maybe I'm not artsy enough. Good movie technically and the plot is okay, but it's not that good. Maybe for it's time...
Published 7 months ago by R. Walker
2.0 out of 5 stars Again...a Time Magazine mention.
Didn't like it very much. Just an OK crime movie in a grainy format I would not recommend it to hardcore detective buffs
Published 15 months ago by Charlene F White
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Connect
Cassavetes film noir? This movie is far removed from Cassavetes typical middle class American themes. Ben Gazzara is good in the role but the story has little impact.
Published 15 months ago by Lindsay Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good movie.
I found this movie to be wholly believable and I liked the way it was filmed, the style of it. It is usually compared to Scorceses' "Mean Streets" Although I did enjoy... Read more
Published 20 months ago by D. Cummings
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind-the-scenes info for Cass buffs
For a fascinating behind-the-scenes info about The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and a list of books about Cassavetes' work, go to Ray Carney's website dedicated to John Cassavetes... Read more
Published on January 25, 2005 by M. Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine film noir
an indebeted club owner has to knockoff a prolific underworld figure as means of settling his tab. subtext abounds in this noir classic.
Published on June 22, 2004 by Ashley Allinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Its A Mood And A Feeling It Gives You
One of my favorite films ever. Gazzara gives an incredible performance. One of Cassavetes' best films. Read more
Published on March 23, 2004 by M. Hencke
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