Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

What's interesting about John Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is that it flips flops between genres. It starts off as a drama, then switching to thriller before blossoming into a character study. Not many directors can pull off this feat; Cassavetes was one of the few that could.

The film focuses on Cosmo Vitelli, played excellently by the recently departed Ben Gazzara. Cosmo runs a small strip club in Los Angeles, and by all accounts has a good life. But he's in debt and as a way to cleat up some of it, he has to kill a Chinese bookie. (Hence the title, of course.)

This is also interesting about The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. The actual crime is treated as nothing more than a minor subplot. This isn't a complaint, mind you, but merely as something that needed to be pointed out. Cassavetes isn't interested in blood and carnage. He'd rather watch someone's reaction to it.

Like his other films, Cassavetes has his camera linger on the main character, in this case Cosmo. In the aftermath of the crime he committed, he appears calm. But just in the very next shot, he has a panicked look on his face, thinking any move he makes could be his last. It's a hell of a performance from Gazzara.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie shows you don't need violence to make an effective thriller. Oh, and that last shot of Cosmo standing outside his club? Now that is how you do a close-up.

My Rating: ****1/2

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated. More so if they are appropriate.