Set more than a decade after the story in Chinatown, this 1990 sequel brings Jack Nicholson back to the screen as L.A. private detective Jake Gittes. Older, fatter, worn, and frustrated, the Jake of 1948 is still haunted... more » by the tragic events of the earlier film. While investigating a case involving adultery and questionable land dealings by an L.A. tycoon (Harvey Keitel as the other Jake), Gittes unexpectedly confronts a few old ghosts and discovers that the resource of choice in Southern California--one for which people die--is no longer water but oil. The film had a notorious production history, with Nicholson taking over the project from writer-director Robert Towne, and the dense plot can be difficult to follow. But if The Two Jakes doesn't measure up to the legendary status of its stylish predecessor, the film does satisfy on its own terms and brings the events of Chinatown to a moving conclusion. Terrific work by Keitel and supporting players Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Eli Wallach, and Ruben Blades. --Tom Keogh« less
"Any sequel to something as good as "Chinatown" is going to disappoint some people, but "The Two Jakes" is just the sequel that that movie needed. "The Two Jakes" has a different look, and a different feel to it; one that is akin to the time that it represents- like "Kiss Me Deadly" or "Sudden Fear" has a different look than "Casablanca" or "The Big Sleep". Yes, it does have a convoluted plot, but one that makes perfect sense if you pay attention, and you cannot fault the performers- they are flawless to the extras. It is also the most flawless (yep, I know that I have been using that adjective a lot, but it fits, and you can look at my other reviews to see just how mean I can be!) look of postwar Los Angeles that I have ever seen- and as a resident, I know how hard that that can be to pull off. So, okay, it's not "Chinatown" so what? Not to denigate it, but that movie's impact was mainly because it re-introduced a generation to the whole film noir genre, brilliantly. This movie attempted to do the same thing for a time that also should be remembered- the 50's film noir, before "Psycho" and "Bonnie and Clyde", but the movies that paved the way for those classics."
Top Notch Mystery
Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 07/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The warm LA nights are suffocatingly thick with the perfume of hibiscus and carbon monoxide. The city is in the beginning of the post war boom and the rush is now for oil and expanding real-estate over water squeeze of the 30's. Along the cracked sidewalks where primordial tar oozes between the cracks a ghost still walks beside Private Eye, Jake Gittes. In this well made sequel to "Chinatown" we are presented with the final chapter in the tragedy of Jake Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray. The film is meticulous in its attention to the post World War II Southern California setting. Stunning in the recreation of the period just as "Chinatown" was to the 1930's Los Angeles. The convoluted Chandleresque story is intriguing and pulls one quickly back into the web of the old story. Jack Nicholson re-creates an older and somewhat wiser Jake Gittes with all the skill and ease of the master of his generation. To top it off he directs with ease and assuredness. It is a real treat to see him working here at the top of his form as he moves into middle age and mellows as an artist without losing his sting. Harvey Keitel is the strong compelling center of the film in his appearance as the second Jake in the story. He is brilliant as a man hiding the truth on many levels. His eyes, as he listens to Gittes, glitter with pain and despair even as he tries to hid it from everyone including himself. His mix of toughness with heartbreaking vulnerability is fascinating to watch. He has never been better. Meg Tilly is properly cool and distantly mysterious as Keitel's wife who holds the ultimate key to the mystery that haunts both the Jakes. Madeleine Stowe in a comic turn delivers a sharply funny performance as she bounces across the screen like a hopped up Rosalind Russell. She nearly steals the picture out from under everyone's noses. Not the masterpiece that "Chinatown" was, none the less "The Two Jakes" is entertaining and a fine follow-up to the original. The film is worth seeing for the performances by all mentioned as well as the wonderful atmosphere of a long lost Los Angeles. "
Although it doesn't quite hold up compared to the first film
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 10/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's about time that "The Two Jakes" gets a little love. Yes, it's a lesser film than "Chinatown" but it's still a GOOD film that was slammed in the press for not being the first film which, of course, it couldn't be simply because all the characters have tried to move on and time has taken its toll on all these people.
The new edition of the film is a marked improvement with more accurate colors and improved definition.
We have an excellent interview with Jack Nicholson that runs about 18 minutes discussing how he ended up in the director's chair ("it was the only way to not have it be this ongoing drama") how "The Two Jakes" was supposed to be the second part of a trilogy (with "Gittes vs. Gittes" originally about privacy as the third film). The original plan was that Towne (who appears in an interview for "Chinatown" but curiously NOT for "The Two Jakes") was going to write and direct the two sequels using the natural passage of time and each succeeding decade (30's, 40's and 50's) to document the change of Los Angeles which was a major character in the film as well.
Nicholson manages to discuss the film without making a nasty comment about anybody. He discusses the casting (Madeline Stowe, Meg Tilly, Eli Wallach, Harvey Keitel), particularly about the challenges working with the actors who often had very different training. We see some behind-the-scenes footage that was drawn from a vintage featurette. Sadly, we don't get a commentary track by Nicholson or any of the cast members. Nevertheless, this is great upgrade over the barebones original release.
Unfortunately Towne is MIA for the interview (given the difficulty he had in getting it made, his dismissal as director and his mixed feelings about the final result, it's understandable). I would have liked to hear the thoughts of Stowe, Tilly and Keitel about the making of the film. Nicholson is very diplomatic in discussing the making of the film and its difficult long haul to the big screen.
A terrific upgrade for fans of "The Two Jakes", Paramount has cleaned up the picture and the result is a much sharper looking DVD. A very good movie "The Two Jakes" may not be "Chinatown" but it's a solid thriller with strong performances and terrific cinematography. A pity that the planned third film in the trilogy won't be coming to the screen. "
An excellent sequel to Chinatown.
Michael C. Smith | 07/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film was badly reviewed and did not do much better at the "Box Office." An excellent sequel to Chinatown. This story is as engaging and interesting as the original. The big surprise isn't who the bad guy turns out to be but who Jake Gittes has been dealing with all along. Keitel does an excellent job as supporting actor.There are times throughout this movie when you don't know if the the two "Jakes" are going to kill each other or become fast friends. The slow build up of grudging respect is interesting though and the plot, performances, and scenery keep you engaged. This is a must see if you liked Chinatown."
"Chinatown" through a glass, darkly
Michael C. Smith | 11/22/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Readers: take close note of that average customer rating above and dismiss the unfortunate choice of critical review at the top. I think in ten or twenty years this will be brought to the same high pedestal as "Chinatown". From the moment Jack takes note of Harvey's shoes, to the last inspired note of Jo Stafford, this is a work of high and detailed craftsmanship.The reason I rate this as the best sequel of all time is that the storyteller speaks with twenty years' older voice to us as his equally enriched contemporaries. He observes the nuance in human behavior we would appreciate, and he reveals the subtle qualities of light that reassert L.A.'s beauty. He also tells a more complex and engrossing story, apparently more intricate than reviewers like the one above could understand, but all the better to savor.For any of us in his generation, Jack has sent a beautiful memento of our earliest days. "Chinatown" was a perfect vintage, but "Jakes" is a perfect thirty-year-old brandy."