Cinema: On the Edge

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE

Directed and Written by JOHN CASSAVETES

When John Cassavetes makes a gangster movie, you can be sure only that it will be like no other. A film maker of vaunting, demanding individuality, Cassavetes is like a jazz soloist, an improviser who tears off on wild riffs from a basic, familiar melody. When Cassavetes is really cooking, even the moments that are awkward and forced can become electric.

Working like this within such a painstaking, cumbersome medium as film has its penalties. The movies can get ragged and confused, their...

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