Watch The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
- 1 hr 49 min
In the movie The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, directed by John Cassavetes in 1976, we follow the story of Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara), a small-time strip club owner in Los Angeles who finds himself in hot water after gambling heavily and falling deep into debt to a local mob boss. In an effort to repay his debts, Cosmo is given the option to carry out a hit on a Chinese bookie. The bookie is an elusive figure, whose identity and location are rumored but never confirmed. Desperate, Cosmo agrees to take on the hit, but as he begins to delve deeper into the criminal underworld, he finds himself in over his head and wrestling with the morality of the violence he has been asked to commit.
One of the things that sets this film apart is its raw, improvisational style. Cassavetes was known for employing actors who were comfortable working outside the boundaries of traditional Hollywood scriptwriting, and in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, the cast was given a great deal of freedom to develop and explore their characters on their own. The result is an intensely engaging film that feels gritty, immediate, and alive.
Another striking element of the film is its use of music. The soundtrack ranges from jazzy, upbeat tunes to mournful, melancholy ballads, and each musical selection is chosen perfectly to complement the tone and mood of the scene at hand. In particular, the song "You're Just Too Good to be True" is used to great effect throughout the film, serving as both a bittersweet romantic refrain and an ironic commentary on the violence and manipulation that drive the story forward.
The film is also notable for its strong performances, particularly from Gazzara in the lead role. He brings a quiet intensity and vulnerability to Cosmo, a man who is desperately trying to hold on to his dignity and autonomy in the face of overwhelming pressure and manipulation. Timothy Carey is also memorable as the eccentric, borderline-crazy gangster who sends Cosmo on his deadly mission, and Seymour Cassel delivers a powerful turn as one of Cosmo's few allies in the rough-and-tumble world of strip clubs and gangsters.
Overall, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a harrowing, gripping film that expertly blends elements of crime, drama, and character study to create a truly unforgettable viewing experience. Cassavetes knew how to craft emotionally charged films that make use of both the best and worst of humanity. With its combination of stellar performances, moody soundtrack, and visceral, uncompromising storytelling, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie stands as one of his finest works, a crime film that finds profound truths in the darkest corners of society.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a 1976 thriller with a runtime of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.3 and a MetaScore of 65.