The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

1976

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

81%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 27

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,710
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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 know is he's part of a set-up. The bookie is actually a West Coast mob boss protected around the clock by bodyguards. The mobsters figure that Cosmo will be killed in an impossible hit and they can take over his nightclub. But Cosmo proves luckier than the mobsters think -- he manages to kill his target, and now the mobsters have to track down Cosmo and kill him. Initially, at 133 minutes, the movie was subsequently re-edited by Cassavetes to 109 minutes. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Cast

Ben Gazzara
as Cosmo Vittelli
Meade Roberts
as Mr. Sophistication
Morgan Woodward
as John the Boss
Virginia Carrington
as Betty the Mother
John Kullers
as Eddie "Red" (Gangster)
Al Ruban
as Marty Reitz
Soto Joe Hugh
as The Chinese Bookie
Haji
as Haji
Jack Ackerman
as Musical director
Benny Marino
as Sonny Venice
Trisha Pelham
as Waitress
Gene Darcy
as Commodore
Hugo Soto
as The Chinese Bookie
Ben Marino
as Bartender
Val Avery
as Blair Benoit
Catherine Wong
as The Bookie's Girl
Mike Skloot
as Scooper
Frank Buchanan
as Flo's Friend
Jason Kincaid
as Parking Lot Attendant
Frank M. Thomas
as Poker Player
Jack Krupnick
as Poker Player
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News & Interviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Critic Reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (7)

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

    May 3, 2013 | Full Review…
  • 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

    May 3, 2013 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jul 7, 2010 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    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.

    Feb 9, 2006
  • 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?

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 2/5
  • Gazzara plays a strip-club owner committed to staging sad, unsexy, decidedly personal semi-nude musical revues.

    Nov 29, 2004

    Keith Phipps

    AV Club
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

  • Apr 18, 2012
    John Cassavetes' gritty arthouse neo-noir is one of those films that you can immediately tell has influenced an entire generation of filmmakers. With its dark atmosphere, electric camerawork and improvisational directing style, "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is less a straightforward drama about betrayal than it is a meditation on the life of a man coming to terms with being set up. Ben Gazzara gives his most naturalistic performance as Cosmo Vitelli, the likable, aging club owner. "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is hard to get into at first due to its detached, abstract style, but if you stick with it, you'll find yourself really involved.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 18, 2011
    Gazzara is amazing. But the real star is Cassavete's direction. The way this film slowly transforms is amazing.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • May 06, 2011
    Watch it for free online.
    Sean G Super Reviewer
  • Apr 22, 2009
    [font=Century Gothic]In "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie," Cosmo Vitelli(Ben Gazzara) is the owner of the Crazy Horse West, modeled after the legendary Parisian nightspot, that is empty of customers until Mort Weil(Seymour Cassel) brings in three carloads of new customers one night. Cosmo, being a compulsive gambler, is immensely interested in visiting Mort's poker club in Santa Monica. When he does, he brings along three of his dancers as dates. Things go badly for Cosmo when he loses $23,000 in a single night and demonstrates an inability to pay.[/font] [font=Century Gothic]"The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" is a deeply cynical and downbeat character study that has less to do with Cosmo or the plot, such as it is, than with a depiction of Los Angeles(and symbolically Hollywood) as a gilded nightmare where women are exploited as decorative features. This is a city without a heart(or if you will a real downtown) and where driving directions are longer than some books. Like Cosmo, writer-director John Cassavetes was originally from New York and there is a current of homesickness that runs through the movie. Even though he runs a glorified strip joint, Cosmo does his best to bring class to the city and the orchids are a nice touch. But he errs badly when he is awed by Mort's gang when he should definitely know better.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Note: This review is for the 135 minute version.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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