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Killing of a Chinese Bookie 1978

R CC
4.3 out of 5 stars (22) IMDb 7.5/10

John Cassavetes engages film noir in his own inimitable style with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays gentlemen's club owner Cosmo Vitelli, a man dedicated to pretenses of composure and self-possession. When he runs afoul of a group of gangsters, Cosmo is forced to commit a horrible crime in a last-ditch effort to save his beloved club and his way of life.

Starring:
Ben Gazzara, Timothy Carey
Runtime:
1 hour, 48 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Thriller
Director John Cassavetes
Starring Ben Gazzara, Timothy Carey
Supporting actors Seymour Cassel, Robert Phillips, Morgan Woodward, John Kullers, Al Ruban, Azizi Johari, Virginia Carrington, Meade Roberts, Alice Friedland, Donna Gordon, Haji, Carol Warren, Derna Wong Davis, Kathalina Veniero, Yvette Morris, Jack Ackerman, David Rowlands, Trisha Pelham
Studio The Criterion Collection
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD
"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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Format: Amazon 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 of course its settings are outdated, and its underground mores hard to understand, but it's also a simple, brilliant and moving allegory about life.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:

NO WEAK, SENTIMENTAL ATTEMPT AT ASSIGNING A "POINT" TO LIFE.
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Format: DVD
"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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Spoiler Alert: As a fan of the director Cassavetes, I will note that this is one of my favorite movies. The plot I take is not so simple, but that complicated. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo a self made man, owner of a burlesque club with a bit of a heart. Cosmo wants to become a player, big spender, big shot. However, his gambling addiction is his albatross.

The movie begins with Cosmo paying off a huge gambling debt, and so after an apparent respite from the past time he ventures out to celebrate a new start. Unfortunately, this brings him to a card game run by the mob. Cosmo loses big & is humiliated by a new unpayable debt. The mob doesn't want a payment plan.Instead, the mob insists that Cosmo executes a competitor. Chinese Bookie, in Chinatown so Cosmo begins a new journey to satisfy his debt.

We now follow a journey with Cosmos that is not unlike Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. In fact, I believe that Scorsese and Cassavete were collaborating. Cosmo, an ex soldier, draws well on his experience & shows some cunning and calculations. But then there is the double cross. The genius of Cassavetes here arises in full vision. Cassavetes details along the way explore everyday mishaps and arising problems associated and not associated with his assassination goals. The journey feels real. The emotions and reactions are not always obvious especially with Cosmo. The American man from the 40-60s. Regardless, Gazzara and Cassou can feel the depth and strenght and existence of the emotions.. Cassavetes always able to draw upon a truth & that's what makes Cassavetes so exciptional. America's Bergman.
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