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12.12.07

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The Two Jakes

(1990)/Chinatown (1974), Special Collector's Editions; Paramount Home Video; $14.99 each


Godfather III was a bad idea. The same holds true for The Two Jakes, the Jack Nicholson (as star and director) 1990 sequel to Chinatown. But it's still an entertaining movie, even if it exists only as a gloss on Roman Polanski's 1974 masterpiece. The film picks up divorce dick J.J. Gittes (Nicholson) in 1948, 11 years after the tragic events of Chinatown. Fatter and more respectable ("In this town, I'm the leper with the most fingers"), Gittes remains haunted by Evelyn Mulwray, the woman he couldn't save. "You can't forget the past any more than you can change it," and sure enough the past comes back in the form of Evelyn's daughter, Katherine (Meg Tilley), now the wife of housing developer Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel)—hence the title—and Gittes finds himself mired in a murky mystery about "old secrets, family and property and a guy doing his partner dirt." Since the story is so steeped in memories, part of the pleasure is seeing the original actors/characters reappear—Perry Lopez as Lou Escobar most effectively. Unfortunately, some of the new characters grate, particularly an atrocious Madeleine Stowe as an oversexed widow. Towne's script is full of loose ends; buy this with the new reissue of Chinatown just to see the difference. Between the two discs, there are several illuminating "making of" documentaries, with long and candid interviews. Towne and Nicholson explain that Chinatown was originally designed to be a trilogy about the growth of L.A., and Polanski exposes the trick that made the famous nostril-slitting scene possible. (Michael S. Gant)


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