The Two Jakes

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The Two Jakes
Two jakes poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jack Nicholson
Produced by Robert Evans
Harold Schneider
Jack Nicholson
Written by Robert Towne
Starring Jack Nicholson
Harvey Keitel
Meg Tilly
Madeleine Stowe
Music by Van Dyke Parks
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Anne Goursaud
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 10, 1990 (1990-08-10)
Running time 138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million
Box office $10,005,969[1]

The Two Jakes is a 1990 American Neo-noir mystery film, and the sequel to the 1974 film Chinatown. Directed by and starring Jack Nicholson, it also features Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Richard Farnsworth, Frederic Forrest, Pia Gronning, David Keith, Rubén Blades, Tracey Walter and Eli Wallach. Reprising their roles from Chinatown are Joe Mantell, Perry Lopez, James Hong, Allan Warnick[2] and, in a brief voice-over, Faye Dunaway. The character of Katherine Mulwray returns as well, played by Meg Tilly.

It was released by Paramount Pictures on August 10, 1990 (the same year as another high profile sequel from Paramount, The Godfather Part III). The film was not a box office or critical success, and plans for a third film about J. J. Gittes, with him near the end of his life, were abandoned.

Plot[edit]

In Los Angeles in 1948, Jake Berman (Keitel) hires private investigator J. J. "Jake" Gittes (Nicholson) to catch his wife, Kitty, in the act of committing adultery. During the sting, Berman kills his rival, who also happens to be his business partner in a real estate development company. Gittes, not having known this, suddenly finds himself under scrutiny for his role in the possible crime, all of which centers around a recording that captured the illicit love meeting, the confrontation, and the killing of Mark Bodine. It calls into question if Berman knew and killed his partner to wrest control of the partnership, making it murder, or was an act of jealousy, which may qualify as "temporary insanity" and be permitted as a defense to a charge of murder.

Gittes must attempt to discover whether the killing was an act of jealousy or premeditated. Oddly, Berman seems unconcerned with the possibility that he may be accused of murder. Meanwhile, Gittes is presented with proof that Earl Rawley, a well-known Los Angeles oil man, may be drilling under the Bodine and Berman development, though Rawley has denied it. This leads to a need to determine who owns the mineral rights to the land. Gittes discovers that the rights are owned by one Katherine Mulwray, daughter of Evelyn Mulwray, his love interest from twelve years prior. He also discovers that the deed transfers were executed in such a way as to attempt to hide Katherine Mulwray's prior ownership and continued claim of the mineral rights.

Gittes operatives have seen Berman in the company of a blond woman along with Micky Nice (a gangster and Berman's friend) and Nice's bodyguard. With a bit of sleuthing Gittes determines that the woman is an oncologist and is treating Berman for cancer somewhere below the waist. Gittes confronts Berman with this knowledge and gets a full confession. Along the way, Gittes discovers that Berman is not going to survive and the entire set-up was to insure that Kitty was protected once he died.

In order to get Kitty Berman to talk to him, Gittes must prove that Jake Berman set out to kill his partner. Once accomplished, Kitty agrees to meet Gittes and tell him what she knows about her husband. In the process of discussing Jake's possible motivations, mineral rights, and the possible whereabouts of Katherine Mulwray it is revealed that Kitty Berman and Katherine Mulwray are one in the same person. Kitty had never suspected that her husband is dying.

In order to prove premeditation, passion, and perhaps even connections to a woman long missing, the police department, Bodine's lawyer, Kitty Berman, and seemingly everyone else wants the recording which Gittes refuses to give up until the day of the inquest. Somehow, Gittes edits the recording, leaving Katherine Mulwray's name chopped out of the dialog, shooting, and aftermath of Bodine's murder. This makes the inquest a short satisfying meeting where there is no reason to suspect murder. Shortly before the film ends, Berman, knowing the model house he is in is filled with natural gas, convinces Gittes and Nice to leave him alone in the house so he can "have a smoke." He doesn't want an autopsy to interfere with Kitty's inheritance.

The movie ends with Kitty and Gittes talking things over in his office. They both speak of regrets and the past with Kitty asking if the past can ever be forgotten. Jake's answer is "no."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Made 16 years after its famous predecessor, the film had a very troubled production, and was supposed to be made around 1985. Originally, producer Robert Evans was to play the "second" Jake, but Towne, who was going to direct the film at that time, did not think he was the right choice and fired him. After this, Nicholson ended up directing (and it would be his last film to date).[3]

Reception[edit]

Unlike its predecessor, the film performed poorly in terms of box office,[4] was not nominated for any awards and critical reception was very mixed, although it found some success in the home media market.[5] The film holds a 65% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews.[6] Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 stars out of four, writing that "every scene falls into place like clockwork [...] exquisite."[7] Vincent Canby writing for The New York Times called it "an enjoyable if clunky movie".[8] Variety called the film "a jumbled, obtuse yet not entirely unsatisfying follow-up to Chinatown".[9] Desson Howe writing for The Washington Post said that "at best, the movie comes across as a competently assembled job, a wistful tribute to its former self. At worst, it's wordy, confusing and -- here's an ugly word -- boring."[10]

Planned third film[edit]

Screenwriter Robert Towne originally planned a trilogy involving private investigator J. J. Gittes. The third movie, called Gittes vs. Gittes, was to be set in 1968 and deal with Gittes' divorce.[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]