Chinatown/The Two Jakes

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

Chinatown is a film for lovers of Los Angeles.  It is for snoops; for film noir followers; and for anyone who loves a classic detective yarn.  It is also a classic American film, well-written by screenwriter Robert Towne, expertly directed by Roman Polanski, and featuring a fine, fine performance from Jack Nicholson as a private detective who is hired to find one man’s infidelity and winds up in a tangled tale of conspiracy and cover-up in a very dry 1930’s Los Angeles.

And it all has to do with water.  Seawater is not good for the grass, after all.  Or is this a film about who owns the water?

"Full of some incredibly sick and twisted plot developments, Chinatown is one of the best films America has ever released"

Opening with a vintage look to its credits and that beyond sultry and mournful score from composer Jerry Goldsmith, Chinatown is already a clear winner in the mood department.  It only gets better from there as Polanski’s film tackles high-ranking corruption in California’s land bid for the future.  Inspired by the California Water Wars at the beginning of the 1900s, this film noir tale takes psychological thriller to a whole new level as

Picking up where Humphrey Bogart left the character of the detached (but not non-emotional!!) private detective in film noir, Nicholson steps in, surrounds himself in that same suit and tie of loneliness and takes on the role of private eye Jake Gittes, an investigator who wants little to do with the heartbreak of Chinatown. 

Gittes doesn’t like what he does but it’s . . . what he is good at.  As a former detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, he’s earned his no-nonsense reputation but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying a dirty joke and looking for the best in every femme fatale which stops into his office, begging for his help.

Which is how he steps into this whole millionaire Noah Cross (John Huston) mess in the first place.  It begins with a crying woman in his office, asking for him to look into her husband’s affair.  Except, as Gittes will eventually find out, the woman is not married to Mr. Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling), who is chief engineer at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Chinatown/The Two Jakes

With some incredibly complex shots of Los Angeles (thanks to cinematographer John A. Alonzo), Gittes trailing of his suspect leads to a dead body, a cut nose, run-ins with his former colleague, LAPD Lieutenant Lou Escobar (Perry Lopez), the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) who is harboring a secret she wants no one to find out about, some orange orchards, and a whole lot of angry farmers who claim the powers that be are restricting their access to water.  They aren’t wrong either.  Which makes Evelyn’s father, who is gobbling up the land relatively cheaply under dead men’s names, an interesting target for his investigation.

But Jake has no idea just how sticky his involvement in this investigation is going to be.

Full of some incredibly sick and twisted plot developments, Chinatown is one of the best films America has ever released.  It is intricate and full of some great characters which only add to complexity of the narrative as Gittes traverses the city looking for clues as to who is responsible for the chaos caused in the northwest valley of California . . . and in the life of Evelyn, whom he thinks he loves.

Chinatown is a bleak movie.  That’s where its overall impact comes from.  The film, like the best film noir entries, has a classic closing line and ending in which, to put it frankly, the wrong people remain among the living.   But it’s the right ending for the movie and fits the tone of this thriller perfectly.  In fact, all of the images; the details; and the character Nicholson has been playing throughout are suited perfectly for the shocking finale.

The film, thanks to Paramount’s contract with Warner Brothers coming to an end, is now available on a pristine 2.35:1 HEVC Dolby Vision encodement, which also includes The Two Jakes, the sequel to Chinatown.  You need this release in your collection.  The differences are extremely noticeable.  It’s almost as if you are watching this classic for the very first time.  Incredible details never noticed before are captured here.

5/5 stars


Chinatown/The Two Jakes

4k details divider

Limited Edition Chinatown 4K Ultra HD + The Two Jakes Blu-ray

Home Video Distributor: Paramount
Available on Blu-ray
- June 18, 2024
Screen Formats: 2.35:1; 1.78:1
: Chinatown - 4KEnglish; English SDH; French; Portuguese; Spanish The Two Jakes; English; English SDH; French; German; Japanese
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1; English: Dolby TrueHD 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region A

One of the most essential film noir classics—CHINATOWN comes to 4K Ultra HD for its 50th Anniversary. Jack Nicholson is unforgettable as private eye Jake Gittes, living off the murky moral climate of sun-baked, pre-war Southern California. Hired by a beautiful socialite (Faye Dunaway) to investigate her husband's extra-marital affair, Gittes is swept into a maelstrom of double dealings and deadly deceits, uncovering a web of personal and political scandals that come crashing together for one, unforgettable night. This limited Paramount Presents edition also includes a Blu-ray featuring the 1990 follow up THE TWO JAKES, directed by Nicholson and written by Oscar winner Robert Towne (CHINATOWN).


Paramount Home Entertainment’s new 2160p UHD release of Chinatown is, at once, a marked improvement over the prior release.  The differences here are quite striking, offering viewers an intense look at a very dry Los Angeles.  In fact, this is a stunning achievement from Paramount because the 2.35:1 HEVC Dolby Vision encodement pulls none of its punches.  Interiors throughout the presentation are quite strong.  From the textures in the room to the cracks in the ceilings, everything shines with a nice layer of detail.  Colors pop throughout, but it is the blood effects - burning bright in the transfer - which seal the deal on this one, especially when Polanski cuts his leading actor’s nose.  It’s full of great atmosphere thanks to the quick-footed script and looks visually eye-popping due to the 4K upgrade.  Black levels are strong throughout, bringing out nice details in both the loud and quiet moments of this film noir throwback.  The tracking shots are glorious to behold in 1080p. Blacks are solid and shadows maintain their lines.  Even the costumes are noted stitch by stitch.


Jerry Goldsmith’s masterful score shines as the audio comes in two options, Dolby 5.1 TrueHD surround and restored mono. The surround track is the preferred choice as it gives Goldsmith’s score more room to set the mood in this narrative.



  • Robert Towne and David Fincher provide the commentary and it is as awesome as you’d expect.

Special Features:

Not necessarily bad news but there’s really only one new supplemental item which wasn’t a part of the 2012 release; however, the interview with author Sam Wasson is pretty good.  Paramount also includes The Two Jakes, the 1990 sequel to Chinatown, directed by Nicholson.

  • Commentary by Screenwriter Robert Towne with David Fincher
  • A State of Mind: Author Sam Wasson on Chinatown
  • Chinatown Memories
  • The Trilogy That Never Was
  • Water and Power
  • The Aqueduct
  • The Aftermath
  • The River & Beyond
  • Chinatown: An Appreciation
  • Chinatown: The Beginning and the End
  • Chinatown: Filming
  • Chinatown: The Legacy

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite 4K UHD Grade

5/5 stars

Film Details

Chinatown/The Two Jakes

MPAA Rating: R.
130 mins
: Roman Polanski
Robert Towne; Roman Polanski
Jack Nicholson; Faye Dunaway; John Huston
: Drama | Noir

Memorable Movie Quote: "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 20, 1974
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 18, 2024.
Synopsis: A private detective hired to expose an adulterer in 1930s Los Angeles finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.


Chinatown/The Two Jakes