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Chinatown

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Chinatown

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway
Director: Roman Polanski
Rated: R
RunTime: 131 Minutes
Release Date: January 1974
Genres: Drama, Noir, Classic, Suspense


*Also starring: John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Diane Ladd, Burt Young, Darrell Zwerling, Bruce Glover, Roy Jenson



Review by Brian Koller
4 stars out of 4

"Chinatown" may be Roman Polanski's best film. It may be Jack Nicholson's best film as well, better than "Five Easy Pieces" or "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest". It starts out seemingly an ordinary detective story and murder mystery. However, the plot gets thicker and thicker as Nicholson unravels a massive real estate scheme and learns who is behind it.

Nicholson plays a private investigator who works in Los Angeles during the 1930s. He is hired by a wife who suspects her husband is cheating. Nicholson takes incriminating photos of him, which are stolen and used to smear the husband, who then appears to have committed suicide.

But nothing is as it appears, not the wife, the affair, or the suicide. Nicholson knows he has been duped, and is determined to learn the full story, which involves murder, real estate fraud, and an artificial water shortage. His investigation also uncovers terrible family secrets involving the murder victim's wife (Faye Dunaway) and her cantankerous, powerful father (John Huston).

Nicholson is well cast as the cynical and hard-working private eye. His character has similarities to Humphrey Bogart's in "The Maltese Falcon", but Nicholson's is not as sharp, and is more willing to con his way into gaining information.

Likewise, Dunaway's character is similar to that of Mary Astor's in "The Maltese Falcon". Both characters seem unwilling to tell the full truth, and claim to love their hired detective, but Dunaway's is much softer and better intentioned.

John Huston, more noted as a director than as an actor, gives a great performance as the grasping schemer who also wants the daughter he doesn't deserve to have.

Roman Polanski has a great cameo as the enforcer with a knife. He will always be known more for his off-camera life than for the films that he has directed, but perhaps that isn't as it should be. "Chinatown" is an outstanding film, perhaps even the best film of the 1970s.

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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