John Cassavetes's THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE is a genre-shattering drama that combines elements of the thriller and crime picture to create something wholly distinct and original. Ben Gazzara stars as Cosmo Vittelli, the proud owner of a Los Angeles strip club called Crazy Horse West. A gambling addict, Cosmo spends his free hours betting. After losing $23,000 one night, he realizes that his addiction might have cost him his club, the one thing in the world he truly loves. To retain control of it, he accepts an offer to murder a rival bookie; if he fulfills this request, his debt will be lifted. In a tense scene--enhanced by Cassavetes's insistence on using location sound--Cosmo carries out his order while suffering a minor wound. Confident that he is in the clear, reality proves him to be naive in his assumption. Gazzara's Cosmo is a striking characterization of a man who will do anything to save his one true passion; his portrayal may in some measure symbolize Cassavetes's take-no-prisoners attitude toward his films.
Description by Image Entertainment:
John Cassavetes engages film noir in his own inimitable style with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays gentlemen's club owner Cosmo Vitelli, a man dedicated to pretenses of composure and self-possession. When he runs afoul of a group of gangsters, Cosmo is forced to commit a horrible crime in a last-ditch effort to save his beloved club and his way of life. Suspenseful, mesmerizing, and idiosyncratic, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a thought-provoking examination of desperation and masculine identity. Available for the first time as a stand-alone release, from the box set John Cassavetes: Five Films.
A small-time Los Angeles nightclub owner falls for a lavish invitation to gamble at a private club. After losing high stakes on extended credit, he is pressured by a gangster to eliminate his debt by killing a rival underworld power referred to only as "the Chinese bookie." Ben Gazzara is staggering in his performance as the proud Cosmo Vitelli, a man who stoops to murder to protect his one and only love: his club. Directed by maverick John Cassavetes, this is a gritty, unorthodox, and beautiful film.