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Directed by John Cassavetes

United States 1976 135 mins.

Cassavetes’ foray into the crime genre follows small-time nightclub owner Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara), who jumps from one big debt to another when, following his pay-off of a major gambling debt, he celebrates by losing $23,000 in a poker game that same night. However, the men to whom he owes the money have other ideas about the payment, forcing Cosmo to become a hit man instead. Through his depiction of the out-of-his-element Cosmo, representing a microcosm of declining American masculinity, Gazzara delivers a tour-de-force performance. “One of the things that comes through in the film is the agony of confrontation with the powerful—an inevitable aspect of the film business, or of any business, but one that must have left scars on the soul of even as fiercely driven an artist as Cassavetes was.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker.