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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

August 13, 2010

606. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Directed by John Cassevetes
USA, 1976

IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing

Description:

Strip joint owner Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) amasses huge gambling debts in a mob-run casino, and is forced to pay them off by becoming a reluctant hitman.

Essential Scene:

Cosmo, having survived his mission and the ensuing attempt on his life, returns to his club to introduce the evening’s shoddy entertainment. As the bizarrely made-up Mr. Sophistication (Meade Roberts) performs “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” a cappella, the strippers dance seductively around him. Meanwhile Cosmo steps out onto the street, his pocket filling with blood from the bullet wound he has hidden from his friends.

Thoughts:

John Cassevetes’s loose, improvisational style is a taste I have yet to acquire. What could be a gripping noir-ish tale of mobsters, murder and double-crossing seems to lose momentum in its long stretches of documentary-style observation. The film has an unexpectedly melancholy air, which is especially effective if you read Cosmo as an analogy for Cassavetes himself; an innovative director who reluctantly took Hollywood acting roles to subsidize his independent films. If the alternative 109-minute cut tightens some of the slack, I can imagine myself enjoying it much more than the 135-minute cut I saw.

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