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Cosmo Vitelli owns the Crazy Horse West, a strip joint in California. He's laconic, a Korean War vet, and a gambler. When we meet him, he's making his last payment on a gambling debt. Then, he promptly loses $23,000 playing poker at an illegal local casino. The guys he owes this time aren't so friendly, pressuring him for immediate payment. Then they suggest that he kill a Chinese bookie to wipe off the debt. Vitelli and the film move back and forth between the double-crossing, murderous insincerity of the gamblers and the friendships, sweetness, and even love among Vitelli, the dancers, a dancer's mother, and the club's singer, Mr. Sophistication. Written by
Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) owns the burlesque club Crazy Horse West in California. Business is a little slow. After paying off his gambling debt, he promptly loses $23k more at a private casino. The boss calls in the debt and forces him to kill a minor Chinese bookie to clean the slate. Only the minor figure turns out to be a major gang leader.
There is something hypnotic about John Cassavetes' directing style. Ben Gazzara is charismatic. I watched the 135-minute version. Even the long rambling burlesque shows are fascinating. It's supported by a gangster story that provides the movie with its drive. I do wish that Cassavetes would film the action with more intensity. His style doesn't work as well with the action scenes. Also after the final shootout, I rather have the movie end quicker.
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