Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5  
Chinatown (2004)

You lucky people. Here, on cinematic re-release is one of the greatest Hollywood movies ever made - and one of the bleakest. Made in 1974, Chinatown sees Jack Nicholson give a career-best performance as the improbably named Jake Gittes, an LA private eye who digs too deeply into the affairs of a mysterious woman (Faye Dunaway) who hires him to spy on her husband. It's a full-colour noir classic where the sun blazes on the surface and the darkness writhes inside.

The movie's brilliance is perhaps mainly down to director Roman Polanski, who twists a crucial, tragic fatalism into Robert Towne's Oscar-winning script. Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate had been killed five years before by the Manson family, and it's fair to see Chinatown as some sort of catharsis. Unwinding leisurely, Towne's clever, convoluted plot sees Gittes picking up chump-change by photographing cheating husbands before uncovering a conspiracy to control the LA water supply.


Yes, there's something sinister going on here but Gittes can't quite figure out what. And neither can we, with Polanski and Towne leading us deeper into an irresistible mystery that pitches into midnight blackness, a festering tangle of murders, lies and evil. Expect twists, turns, red herrings and revelations. Expect them to culminate in a shocking and horrific finale.

As it stylishly evokes - and skews - the loneliness and romanticism of the crime genre, Chinatown vibrates through some stunning performances. The shoot was a misery (Polanski reportedly threw a cup of urine - possibly Nicholson's - into Dunaway's face at one point), but Nicholson's wounded, witty turn makes for stinging chemistry with Dunaway's tortured femme fatale.

In short? Absolutely the finest thing that Nicholson, Polanski, Towne and producer Robert Evans (The Kid Stays In The Picture) will ever produce. Unforgettable.

End Credits

Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Robert Towne

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, Burt Young

Genre: Classic, Crime, Thriller

Length: 125 minutes

Cinema: 23 April 2004

Country: USA

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