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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
John Cassavetes’s uncompromising character study of a gangster, with Ben Gazzara as the small-time club owner whose life begins to spin out of control.
Director: John Cassavetes
In an absorbing performance, Ben Gazzara plays small-time Sunset Strip entrepreneur Cosmo Vitelli, owner of the Crazy Horse West night spot. An obsessive showman, Cosmo navigates a murky world of loan sharks and crooks to keep his club afloat, but when a gambling debt spirals out of control he is blackmailed into accepting a murderous commission.
Featuring stand-out turns by Seymour Cassel and Timothy Carey as the underworld racketeers out to fleece Cosmo, John Cassavetes’s portrayal of one man’s hubristic descent subverts the conventions of its genre to explore the darker side of the American dream. Arguably the most plot-driven of his films, Cassavates withdrew The Killing of a Chinese Bookie shortly after the initial release and subsequently re-cut a shorter version with a different opening. The re-cut version is available on the Blu-ray and the DVD includes the long version amongst the special features.