Chinatown (1974) starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Darrell Zwerling, Diane Ladd, Roy Jenson directed by Roman Polanski Movie Review

Chinatown (1974)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes in Chinatown (1974)

A Very Nosy Fella

It is impossible not to see that "Chinatown" is a fantastic movie with great style, a clever story, top notch performances and director Roman Polanski giving us his take on film-noir with just the right amount of deviances from the traditional. It is why you will often find reviews proclaiming greatest movie ever whilst also salivating over its noir styling and fair do's if you are film-noir fan there is a lot to love about "Chinatown". In fact even if you don't care for film-noir it is still fantastic but can end up feeling like it is at times trying too hard to be like noir movies from the past.

J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson - The Last Detail) is a P.I. specialising in cases of matrimonial infidelity, so when he is approached by a woman proclaiming to be Mrs. Mulwray (Diane Ladd) who wants her husband followed he thinks nothing of it, especially when he catches Mr. Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) with a younger woman. But Gittes discovers all is not as it seems when the real Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway - The Three Musketeers) shows up at his office threatening to sue him for defamation of character and so he sets about trying to find out why he has been set up. What he discovers is not only corporate corruption related to the city's water supply but also incest.

Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown (1974)

So the first thing which strikes you is that Polanski has basically delivered a visual recreation of film-noir except one in colour. "Chinatown" feels like it has taken the sets, costumes, cameramen and extras from an old film-noir movie and used them for what on release was a modern update. And it is good from Gittes office to the various trouble he encounters with some shady looking characters it is very much classic film-noir in look and is why at times it feels like it is trying a little too hard to recreate the look and style from 20 to 30 years earlier. That also includes the characters and dialogue because it is all what I would call classic noir.

But then we have the twist on noir and whilst we have a typical start with a P.I. investigating a man and then finding himself a patsy what he discovers a long the way differs from noir of the past. It is one of the movies hooks because these variances on what feels a classic storyline make you pay attention especially when it comes to the subject of incest. And these twists really work because they take the story into a different direction than initially expected and make you wonder how it will all end up.

The other reason why "Chinatown" hooks you is the performances and whilst every performance be it Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray or John Huston as Noah Cross are good it is Jack Nicholson who makes the movie. Not only does Nicholson make Gittes a classic film-noir P.I. but he brings a touch of humanity to him when it comes to his feelings for clients and what they may uncover. There is also the fact that for a lot of the movie Gittes wears a huge bandage on his nose after an incident with a man with a knife, a cameo from Roman Polanski, and how Nicholson managed to pull off such a ridiculous look and have us take his seriously is pure skill.

What this all boils down to is that "Chinatown" is a well put together movie, a fantastic 1970s take on film-noir with Jack Nicholson delivering yet another extraordinary performance. It is why for fans of film-noir "Chinatown" is an amazing movie whilst for those like me who are not so crazy about film-noir it is an above average movie which is still entertaining.