The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a 1976 American art and crime film directed and written by John Cassavetes and starring Ben Gazzara. A rough and gritty film, the formidable character Gazzara plays was based on an impersonation he did for his friend Cassavetes in the 1970s. The film, set in California, opens with Cosmo Vittelli (Ben Gazzara) making the final payment on a longstanding gambling debt to a sleazy loanshark (played by the film's producer Al Ruban). To celebrate his long-anticipated freedom, burlesque club owner Vittelli has an expensive night out with his three favorite dancers ("Margo", "Rachael" and "Sherry"). The evening culminates in a poker game in which Vittelli loses $23,000, returning him to the debtor's position he had just left. Using the debt as leverage, his mob creditors coerce him into agreeing to perform a "hit" on a rival.