On its surface John Cassavetes’ Gloria does not seem like your standard Cassavetes film. The filmmaker known for his more realistic, hand-held style does slide into a more mainstream mode of filmmaking here but does it with such Cassavetes-style that the film becomes inarguably his. Casting his wife Gena Rowlands in the lead role, the filmmaker takes a premise tailor-made for a warm, uplifting family picture and creates a darker portrait of childhood and family. Rowlands stars as Gloria, a tough New York City mob moll put in charge of a young Puerto Rican boy being hunted by gangsters. Much of the film involves Rowland and the boy, played by John Adames, running through the boroughs of New York City taking trains, buses, and cabs all across avoiding danger and trying to find their way out.
John Cassavetes spare, startling take on the film noir, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, is clunky and feels almost improvisational at times but what makes it stand out is the brilliant performance by Ben Gazzara. As with most Cassavetes films, the filmmaker gives no room for the actor to hide, often getting in too close for comfort and giving the audience a sense of intimacy with its lead characters that’s difficult to pull off but Cassavetes style paired with a heartbreaking performance of a proud man laid low by Gazzara reaches new levels of audience participation with its lead character.