Killing of a Chinese Bookie
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.
Set in the Brooklyn of the 1940s, the story elucidates the friendship between two young Jews of differing factions. Daniel is Hassidic, while Reuven is a Zionist; though separated ideologically, the boys find a common bond through their love of the neighborhood games of stickball.