It is not wise to cross Jackson (Lester Purry), the boss of the nightclub where gambling is not only allowed, but encouraged. Tonight one unlucky punter is feeling his wrath, and the resident Bookie (Ken Quitugua) steps in to try and stop a beating he feels is going too far. But then Jackson appears and he shrinks back into his shell, not wishing to get into trouble himself. However, tonight Bookie will take a risk, crossing Jackson all for the sake of love...
An independent short with style to spare, Bookie was written and directed by Tran Quoc Bao in what evidently was a calling card to Hollywood, demonstrating his talent with an economical story and evocative atmosphere. The film is placed in Seattle during 1963, and the nightclub location is used to bring the era to life with well-chosen jazz, performed on the club stage. It's the kind of setting that you can imagine the Frank Sinatra of the movies visiting.
There's not much to the themes of the story other than sometimes stepping up to take a gamble can pay off, even if it comes at a price. Convincingly acted by a cast that take to their characters as if they were more than stock personalities accustomed to such gangster movie homages, Bookie actually has a sweet romantic side. Our hero is secretly in love with Billie, one of the barmaids (Angela Aoto), who unfortunately for him is involved with Jackson - which is unfortunate for her as well.
This is because she catches him giving a necklace to a new girl, and her temper leads her to be slapped about. Bookie bristles, but works out a way the cynical woman might warm to him when he invites her to place a bet on the boxing match the club patrons are waiting to hear the result of. However, it doesn't go well, leading Bookie to take a chance to cheat Jackson to reimburse Billie with interest. There is a variety of situations designed to show off the director's abilities, even a scene of violence for the finale, and to that extent Bookie is very fine, obviously a work of promise.