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Chinatown

Updated on March 30th, 2019

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes is hired by a “Mrs. Mulwray” to spy on her husband. Shortly after Gittes is hired, the real Mrs. Mulwray appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn’t drop the case immediately.

Gittes pursues the case anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy centering on water management, state and municipal corruption, land use, and real estate; and involving at least one murder.

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Movie Reviews: “Chinatown

Movie Review: Time Out

The hard-boiled private eye coolly strolls a few steps ahead of the audience. The slapstick detective gets everything wrong and then pratfalls first over the finish line anyway.

Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is neither – instead he’s a hard-boiled private eye who gets everything wrong. Jake snaps tabloid-ready photos of an adulterous love nest that’s no such thing. He spies a distressed young woman through a window and mistakes her for a hostage.

He finds bifocals in a pond and calls them Exhibit A of marital murder, only the glasses don’t belong to the victim and the wife hasn’t killed anyone. Yet when he confronts ostensible black widow Evelyn Mulwray (Dunaway) with the spectacular evidence, the cigarette between his teeth lends his voice an authoritative Bogie hiss.

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Movie Review: The Nation

In Roman Polanski’s influential noir film, Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a private dick embroiled in elaborate corruption scheme in 1930s Los Angeles.

Chinatown is a real cat’s cradle of movie lore, a state of affairs emphasized by the fact that John Huston, whose first work as director was The Maltese Falcon, is here playing in support of Jack Nicholson, whose office in the picture is only a little dressier than the warren out of which Humphrey Bogart used to run his private-eye business.

As soon as you see him in the role of JJ. Gittes, you realize it was inevitable that Nicholson would one day have a shot at the West Coast 1930s genre of adultery, larceny and homicide. He wears the right snap-brim hat, he has the authentic friendly contempt for the regular cops who are out to get him, he is susceptible to women and impervious to sleeplessness and beatings, he is absurdly foolhardy, cynically idealistic and very lucky. Being one of the smartest actors around, Nicholson does not attempt to look, speak or drink like Bogart.

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Movie Review: Creative Loafing

It’s Chinatown.” This immortal line is enough to make any movie lover swoon, yet it’s just one of the countless classic bits of dialogue in director Roman Polanski’s film noir homage, an enduring masterpiece that has moved beyond being regarded as one of the best films of the 1970s to being hailed as one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced. Jack Nicholson, in what ranks as one of his four or five greatest performances (and that’s saying something), stars as J.J. Gittes, a private eye in 1930s Los Angeles who becomes involved in a labyrinthine plot involving murder, political corruption and the family secrets of a potential femme fatale (Faye Dunaway).

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), its sole victory was for Best Original Screenplay – a given, since Robert Towne’s script continues to be singled out (and even utilized by film professors) as a model of perfection. Sixteen years later, Nicholson (this time as both director and star) reteamed with Towne for the unjustly overlooked sequel, which finds Gittes drawn into a mystery that shrewdly connects back to the events from the first picture.

The link to the original film can be deduced fairly easy, and by this point, Nicholson had begun slipping into the “hammy Jack” persona that would eventually inform too many of his performances – his turn as Gittes is enjoyable, but it never quite feels like the same man from Chinatown. Yet The Two Jakes is admirably dense in a manner that’s satisfying rather than frustrating, and co-stars Harvey Keitel and Meg Tilly are both memorable, especially in the picture’s later scenes.

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