That, in fact, is the theme of Mikey and Nicky's co-feature at the Fine Arts in Berkeley this week, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, also from 1976, one of Cassavetes' most scorned directorial efforts. Ben Gazzara plays a nightclub owner who stupidly gets himself in debt to the mob in what is an allegory of the director's own dealings with Hollywood. (Gazzara supervises a gaggle of untalented performers as carefully as Cassavetes seems to have shepherded his own much-indulged casts.) Forced to perform a murderous errand, Gazzara rapidly finds himself adrift in a neon wonderland: Action sequences play as they might in real life in this amazing slow-motion noir. Both halves of this challenging double bill repay close attention even as the prospect of death concentrates their stars' attention wonderfully.
-- Gregg Rickman
Mikey and Nicky screens Sunday through Tuesday, March 15-17, at 5 and 9:30 p.m. (with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at 7:15 p.m.) at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6; call (510) 848-1143.