51. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

Leonard Maltin's Rating :
Should be :

IMDB Rating : 7.2

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 80%

Rotten Tomatoes Synopsis : A sleazy nightclub manager, in debt to the mob, is pressured to wipe out an underworld power.

Leonard says in his review : "Strange, self-indulgent (even for Cassavettes) home movie centering around the owner of a strip joint, the mob and what used to be called 'B girls.' Small cult may take to this; others beware."

That was really a pretty weak review. How about this one from the Time Out Film Guide : "Cassavetes doesn't believe in gangsters, as soon becomes clear in this waywardly plotted account of how a bunch of them try to distract Gazzara from his loyalty to his barely solvent but chichi LA strip joint, the Crazy Horse West. Or rather Cassavetes doesn't believe in the kind of demands they make on a film, enforcing cliches of action and behavior in return for a few cheap thrills. On the other hand, there's something about the ethnicity of the Mob - family closeness and family tyranny - which appeals to him, which is largely what his films are about, and which says something about the way he works with actors. The result is that his two gangster films - this one and the later Gloria - easily rate as his best work crisscrossed as they are by all sorts of contradictory impulses, with the hero/heroine being reluctantly propelled through the plot, trying to stay far enough ahead of the game to prevent his/her own act/movie being closed down. It's rather like a shaggy dog story operating inside a chase movie. Chinese Bookie is the more insouciant, involuted and unfathomable of the two; the curdled charm of Gazzara's lopsided grin has never been more to the point."

I guess the reviewers saw two different movies. One thought the movie was awful and the other thought it was great. In 1995 to mark the Centenary of Film, the English publication Time Out polled directors, producers, actors, programmers and critics to find out what they felt had been the high point of the last 100 years. Coming in 85th palce was The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. It placed just below Casablanca, Double Indemnity, Intolerance, Notorious, The Red Shoes, Out of the Past, Sunset Boulevard, City Lights, Ran and Sunrise. That's pretty fast company Chinese Bookie is running with.

Strange, dark, daring, interesting and exciting. I really, really like this movie and I'm guess I'm going to have to go with the Time Out guys on this one.