Nominated for 10 Oscars, there’s a reason why CHINATOWN is considered one of the “Top 100 films of all time” by the American Film Institute. Simply put, it is one of the best noir thrillers ever committed to celluloid with a script by Robert Towne that is a master class in character and plotting.
Set in 1930’s Los Angeles, J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private eye who specializes in tracking down cheating spouses. He’s hired by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray, the wife of Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwering), a Water Department engineer, who supposedly is cheating on her with a younger woman.
Jake takes the case and delivers the goods only to be confronted by the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) who wants him to drop the case. Not happy about being used, Jake decides to continue his own investigation only to unravel a conspiracy regarding the Department of Water and Power as well as a dark family secret that has haunted Evelyn for most of her life.
Directed by Roman Polanski, CHINATOWN is gorgeous to behold. It harkens back to the noir films of the 1930’s and 40’s, but with a decidedly 70’s spin. Even though the story deals with the politics of its decade, it has a timeless feel. Adding to that is Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent score that is one of the best of his career.
The film takes its time to unravel its complex mystery and it’s a slow burn, but it sucks you in and never gives you time to breath culminating in a shocking ending that is literally a slap in the face.
I can’t recommend CHINATOWN enough, especially if you are a student of film as I am. It’s a MUST SEE MOVIE and a classic of the genre.