XL Popcorn – The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 829/1007Title: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Director: John Cassavetes
Year: 1976
Country: USA

This was the film where I was hoping John Cassavetes would win me over. Hoping because this is not my final stop on the Cassavetes train before finishing the 1001 list and, whilst this is the best of the three films I have seen so far, I am still not close to wow territory. This isn’t as bad as my relationship with Godard (which, after a conversation with a cinephile friend of mine, I don’t feel as bad about), but I know there is something just not connecting here.

As stories go, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is pretty great. The owner of a nightclub racks up so much gambling debt (whilst celebrating paying off his last round of debt) that he has to take on an assassination contract or himself lose everything. The aftermath of this assassination that was never meant to be successful, again, looks great on paper.

However, so much of this film ends up dwelling on needless detail – like showing us the nightclub routines in excruciating detail, that any tension starts to dissolve and you are left watching a poorly executed burlesque piece loosely connected with Paris. Ben Gazzara is brilliant in his role as the owner and reluctant assassin, his strange earnestness being oddly compelling. The final scenes go a long way towards breaking your heart, but by then it’s too late – I’ve disconnected from the film and wanting to be back on my island in Animal Crossing. 

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