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THE TWO JAKES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeline Stowe, Eli Wallach, Ruben Blades, Frederic Forrest, David Keith
Director: Jack Nicholson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French, Spanish & Portuguese Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 137 Minutes
Release Date: November 6, 2007

“You tell me what the hell you think is going on and I’ll tell you if I think you’re right.”

Film ***

If there’s gonna be a follow-up to Chinatown, one has to accept the inevitable right away…it isn’t going to be as good. That having been said, The Two Jakes is a most satisfactory sequel to the 1974 classic. Originally, this movie was intended as the second film in a trilogy, but the movie unfortunately bombed in theaters, and the third chapter will never see the light of day.

From what I understand it took some time to get this project off the ground, which may help explain why there was a sixteen-year gap between Chinatown and this follow up. The movie went through a number of directors and writers, but in the end Jack Nicholson took it upon himself as the director to ensure this passionate project got made. The end result is an incredibly stylish film, which at the time of its release was perhaps the most lavish looking film noir since Roman Polanski’s masterpiece.

Where as Chinatown took place in the 1930s Los Angeles, The Two Jakes transcends to the 1940s in the post war era. As we learn from private eye Jake Gittes (Nicholson), through voice over narration, the war did great things for L.A. It brought more money to the city, resulting in the baby boom of housing subdivisions.

The central plot of this most convoluted story has to do with Gittes’ latest client, a realtor named Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel). He claims his wife is having an affair and wants Gittes to catch the wife and the lover in the act. Infidelity is discovered, but Berman ends up killing his wife’s lover, who also turns out to be his business partner.

Gittes comes into possession of an audio recording that captured the entire murder. Then the dead man’s wife, Lillian (Madeline Stowe), shows up at Gittes office. She has a suspicion that adultery had no part of the matter, and that what took place may have been cold blooded murder.

And other angles soon tie in to the mix. The property where Berman is developing homes is linked to an incident from Jake’s past, and seen in the first movie. And where as water was the very resource tied in with the murder plot of Chinatown, this time around it’s oil that lies at the heart of the mystery.

The Two Jakes is more a triumph of style over substance, where as the first film was triumph of both. Nicholson, directing his first film since 1978’s Goin’ South, gets the look of the time period down perfectly. The story isn’t as involving, and succeeds at being needlessly complex, but there’s quite a bit to appreciate in this film.

Video ***

This anamorphic presentation from Paramount boasts a fine looking picture for the most part. The blazing sunny look of 1940s Los Angeles looks astounding at times, thanks to the incredible cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond, who shot a few films for Brian De Palma among other directors. Some grain does pop up during a couple of scenes, but for the most part this is a most exceptional looking feature.

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 mix does nicely with what it can. It’s a dialogue driven film every step of the way. Dialogue is delivered quite strongly, but that’s about the only area of quality I could detect from the presentation. A couple of explosions and occasional music playback are the only other standout moments.

Features **

The only main feature included on this Special Collector’s Edition release is twenty minute featurette titled “Jack on Jakes”, which features an enthusiastic Jack Nicholson recalling with great detail the making of the film. It’s a rarity to see Jack in such a light mode and that makes this a better than average featurette. The only other feature is the Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Like I said, trying to follow up Chinatown is and always will be impossible, but The Two Jakes is as good a follow up to that 1974 masterpiece as you’ll ever find.

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