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Ben Gazzarra gives a grand performance as a hard-pressed debtor with delusions of grandeur in this naturalistic and tense thriller. Read critic reviews

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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Photos

Movie Info

Cosmo Vittelli (Ben Gazzara), the proprietor of a sleazy, low-rent Hollywood cabaret, has a real affection for the women who strip in his peepshows and the staff who keep up his dingy establishment. He also has a major gambling problem that has gotten him in trouble before. When Cosmo loses big-time at an underground casino run by mobster Mort (Seymour Cassel), he isn't able to pay up. Mort then offers Cosmo the chance to pay back his debt by knocking off a pesky, Mafia-protected bookie.

Cast & Crew

Ben Gazzara
Cosmo Vitelli
Seymour Cassel
Mort Weil (Gangster)
Meade Roberts
Mr. Sophistication
Donna Gordon
Margo Donnar
Morgan Woodward
John (Head gangster)
Phil Burton
Associate Producer
Al Ruban
Producer
Bo Harwood
Original Music
Mitch Breit
Cinematographer
Al Ruban
Cinematographer
Tom Cornwell
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Critic Reviews for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (6)

  • The genre elements are mostly subterfuge because otherwise [Cassavetes would] basically be bleeding on the screen.

    March 16, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • When Cassavetes is really cooking, even the moments that are awkward and forced can become electric.

    May 3, 2013 | Full Review…
  • With a heavily improvised script Cassavetes gets the most from his actors, each giving emotive performances.

    May 3, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | 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.

    July 7, 2010 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    February 9, 2006

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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