This is American independent cinema at it's best. It is one of those overlooked gems that is not only a great film, but a great record of its time, even if it might have more properly been titled The Murder Of A Chinese Bookie. As much as I love the early raw films of Martin Scorsese -- who reputedly thought up this tale with Cassavetes a few years earlier -- no film I've ever seen so perfectly captures the mid-1970s underworld. There is a sense that one can even smell the cheap liquor and cigarette smoke that pervades its images. What set Cassavetes apart from his contemporary American peers was that his films did not mythologize -- they simply depicted. In this sense, he did for modern urbanity what German filmmaker Werner Herzog does for historical films, i.e. brings them down to `eye level realism'. He also depicted his society with the same level of universal realism as Yasujiro Ozu did post-war Japan. Like other (usually US) films The Murder... is disturbing and mesmerizing. The dirty quality of images (in some moments bewilderingly amateurish, ins others incredibly sophisticated), the acting, the disjointed plot, the weirdness of some scenes (like the one in the car parking), Gazzara's sublime acting, the wonderful choice of places and times... it all gives you an impression of the States like they really are, not the sanitized image you find in so many Holy-Wood flicks (not all of them, I admit, but about 85%...). Such a movie is like The Searchers or Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, unfathomable and greater than life, but in some way disturbingly like life. And the character of Cosmo Vitelli is one of those enigmatic figures that leaves you wondering whether you have been shown the story of an idiot or the story of a saint. Unforgettable.