The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Videos & Photos

Movie Info

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 … More

Rating: R
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: John Cassavetes
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 6, 1999
Criterion Collection


as Cosmo Vittelli

as Mr. Sophistication

as Rachel

as John the Boss

as Betty the Mother

as Eddie "Red" (Gangste...

as Marty Reitz

as The Chinese Bookie

as Haji

as Musical director

as Sonny Venice

as Waitress

as The Chinese Bookie

as Commodore

as Bartender

as Blair Benoit

as The Bookie's Girl

as Scooper

as Flo's Friend

as Parking Lot Attendan...

as Poker Player

as Poker Player
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (7)

When Cassavetes is really cooking, even the moments that are awkward and forced can become electric.

Full Review… | May 3, 2013
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | May 3, 2013
New Yorker
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | July 7, 2010
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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?

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Gazzara plays a strip-club owner committed to staging sad, unsexy, decidedly personal semi-nude musical revues.

Full Review… | November 29, 2004
AV Club
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

An offbeat but unique take on the noir genre keys that might seem to go nowhere most of the time and yet brings some freshness and bravado.

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


Gazzara is amazing. But the real star is Cassavete's direction. The way this film slowly transforms is amazing.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Cosmo Vitelli is the owner of a strip club on the sunset strip in Los Angeles, and his business is slow. He's an ex-New Yorker who's re-located to L.A. and is trying to be a big shot, only he doesn't seem to get much respect, but boy, there sure is an air of impending doom surrounding the guy. He goes to the casino of a fellow club owner and tries to be a bigshot in front of his girls, but winds up with a $23,000 debt to what is clearly a mob family. In order to forgive his debt, they want him to kill a chinese bookie they claim owes them money. All is not as it seems to be though, neither with the set-up nor Cosmo Vitelli himself. The film itself isn't directed in a very accessible way, there's lots of random close-ups and off camera dialogue, but it is engrossing (it seems to slightly imitate the Scorsese style, and not just because of the gangster element). Anyway, since when does art always have to be assessible? The soundtrack is near barren, almost the only time music is heard is when the characters on the screen are hearing it. All Cosmo wants to do is run his nightclub and it seems he'll do anything to keep things normal. Perhaps even something crazy as he may be crazier than he let's on. There's more to this low budget crime drama than suspected at first as well.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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