Reviewed by: Tyler Smith
Sequel: “The Two Jakes” (1990)
Directed by Roman Polanski, “Chinatown” is a film noir classic. It features all the components of a great movie: interesting characters portrayed by great actors, airtight directing, and a script that many film buffs consider to be the ideal screenplay.
The plot is so complex that I can’t even begin to touch on it. It begins with the death of an important citizen of 1930’s L.A. The man’s wife turns to a private investigator to help solve the murder. The further into the case he goes, the more endangered his life becomes. Soon, he is faced with numerous facts: who the murderer was; what the motive was; and that, sometimes, whether right or wrong, there’s nothing you can do about a situation.
The acting in this picture is amazing. Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a private detective with a past that he’d prefer to forget. Nicholson portrays Gittes with a cynicism and wisdom paralleled only by Bogart himself. Playing his primary romantic interest is Faye Dunaway, who comes on like a modern Barbara Stanwyck. She, too, has a past filled with secrets and will do anything to keep them from coming out. Topping off the cast is John Huston, the legendary director of earlier film noir movies such as The Maltese Falcon. Huston plays a powerful and respected resident of L.A. who is probably the shadiest character of the lot. Huston shows that he is a great actor as well as a great director.
There is very little offensive material contained in the movie; brief amounts of nudity and very little profanity. If released today, it would easily be a PG-13.
“Chinatown” is one of the best movies out there. It teaches, much like Casablanca, that, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a happy ending is almost impossible.