The Two Jakes Review

Two Jakes, The
Whereas Chinatown was set in Los Angeles, 1938, The Two Jakes advances us ten years; private eye Jake Gittes (Nicholson) is back from the war a hero and running a prosperous agency specialising (like Liam Neeson’s somewhat more threadbare business in Unde

by Mat Snow |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1990

Running Time:

138 minutes



Original Title:

Two Jakes, The

Five years in the making at a very high cost in both dollars and friendships, the sequel to 1974s classic Chinatown, The Two Jakes is not as good as its illustrious forebear. It is, however, a far richer film than 19 out of 20 Hollywood pictures which arrive on these shores with a full fanfare of trumpet.

Gittes himself has filled out and grown wise; Jack’s drawling voice-over of such epigrammatic Chandleresque commentary as “You can’t trust a guy who’s never lost anything” (the script, again, is by Robert Towne) both sustains the movie’s fated mood and keeps tabs on a very complicated plot. Here is the weakness : there’s an awful lot of story to get through, yet The Two Jakes wants to be more than just a designer-film noir yarn. There is the relationship between the two Jakes of the title to be fleshed out, and slow-burn themes of memory, guilt, corruption and LA itself to be explored. In the end, everything is rather short-changed, and the fault must lie with Nicholson the director.

The Two Jakes is well-acted and looks fabulous, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond paints it eerily bright and shiny, but, his third time out as director, Jack fails to cut consistently to the story’s core and to weight scenes to the best dramatic impact. And moments of light relief, while being funny, jar the overall tone. Had Roman Polanski helmed this movie, one feels everything would have fallen into place far more satisfactorily.

Better for the film industry to have a film such as this, rather than the predictable thriller-by-numbers, which at least shoots for the moon and, if it misses, does so magnificently.
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