The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Director: John Cassavetes
Year Released: 1976
Rating: 4.0

Grossly underrated Cassavetes film that centers on Ben Gazzara who runs a sleazy, topless nightclub (The Crazy Horse West), just trying to run a show and entertain people, but finds himself in gambling debt with the mob (which includes Seymour Cassel). While the plot is somewhat standard, the treatment couldn't be more off-beat - Cassavetes opts for a unique hand-held, cinema-verite approach, and features broken dialogue and half-heard, half-understood conversations that may have been made up on the spot, or may have been carefully scripted by Cassavetes and flawlessly delivered (Gazzara's "conversation" with one of his girlfriend's mother is hilarious). Critics seem to have bashed or ignored this film - even fans of the director - though it is somewhat easy to see why; some sequences are outright bizarre, and I can't claim to have understood every single moment, but it somehow it makes you feel comfortable in being lost: it's less a movie and more like an unchained documentary ... or an unparalleled exercise in genre deconstruction. No matter what, it's one of Cassavetes' most original and important films.