Forget all the other neo-noir and hardboiled detective films coming out around the time, it’s Chinatown, yet another critically acclaimed masterpiece from the notorious Roman Polanksi that easily ranks among the genre’s very best. So why am I not giving it a perfect 10/10 score? Well, there admittedly were a couple of things that I took some issue with (more on them later), but the film’s unbelievable strengths far outweigh its flaws. That’s not to say that the latter is made virtually unnoticeable as a result (in fact, one of them in particular is the literal opposite of that), but still.
J.J. “Jake” Gittes, a private investigator working in L.A. circa 1937,thinks he’s just dealing with just another routine adultery case when a woman hires him to follow her apparently cheating husband, but it soon becomes much, much, much more complex than that. So complex, in fact, that I actually had to pause the film twice so my dad could look up just what was going on via Wikipedia.
For the record, I actually really like these kinds of intricate and detailed plotlines, but this one just became a little too hard-to-follow over time (something I absolutely cannot stand), and the way it finally concludes feels more pointlessly cruel/mean-spiritedthan anything else (can you imagine the sci-fi horror classicAliengoing through with this horrific proposed ending?).
To focus on these little trip-ups, though, would be ignoring the undeniable genius at work here that has made Chinatown a true American classic. Jack Nicholson, famously sporting a bandage on his nose for more than half ofthe film’s running time,is absolutely incredible as Gittes, and his acting talents are very well-serviced by the twisty, suspenseful (if--as I just said above--overly complicated) plot that always keeps you guessingand focuses more on actual dialogue and character development than the obligatoryblood and bullets that so much of mainstream Hollywood constantly pelts us with today while forgetting to tell, you know, an actual storyor whatnot.
You might be wondering why I’ve barely said what the film’s storyline actually is throughout this entire review. That is because although I’d absolutely love to talk about it in more detail, I fear that that would be spoiling the visceral experience of watching it all play out as it goes along, even if a few repeat viewings are probably necessary to really understand it. And indeed, as challenging and ultimately bitter asChinatownmay be, it is a film that I–and you–will return to for many years to come.