John Cassavetes Judith Crist - Essay

Judith Crist

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a mess, as sloppy in concept as it is in execution, as pointless in thesis as it is in concept. Ironically, it is as if an artsy-smartsy amateur had attempted a remake of one of those taut little low-budget crime thrillers in which Cassavetes established himself as an actor of noteworthy intensity in the Fifties. Though even an amateur would opt for a bit more credibility in plot, a bit more intelligence in the endless improvised chitchat, a bit more stability in the camerawork, a modicum of coherence in the characterizations. (p. 50)

All of this takes 135 minutes packed with inaction, much inane conversation in the strippers' dressing room, dreary glimpses of the dreary stage show, confusing encounters with strangers, pretentious references to death, and whiz-bang jokes like "Karl Marx said opium was the religion of the masses" and "Two girls ate a gopher tail and died of botulism." They have to be jokes—don't they? Actually, it's all a bad joke, on the faithful as well as on the unwary, with the ultimate gall being the claim in the film's promotion that its hero is "today's 'everyman' who will even murder to keep the pressure out of his life." Ho hum. (p. 51)

Judith Crist, "To Each His Everyman," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1976 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. 3, No. 13, April 3, 1976, pp. 50-1.∗