Chinatown/The Two Jakes

"Nine times out of ten, if you follow the money you will get to the truth."

Infidelity made private investigator and war veteran Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) the man he is today.  We know this having seen the excellent Chinatown, but Gittes admits as much in the opening line of The Two Jakes, the 1990 Nicholson-directed sequel to Chinatown, now on blu-ray thanks to Paramount Pictures, who got their catalog back from Warner Brothers in time to celebrate Chinatown’s 50th anniversary.

"an interesting movie, but its history is even more fascinating"

Unfortunately, the celebration ends before sharing the 4K upgrade to this sturdy film.  Sure, The Two Jakes is not up to Chinatown’s heights, but the film is quite remarkable considering the amount of stress involved in making this follow-up.

The Two Jakes is an interesting movie, but its history is even more fascinating, thanks to its troubled (and long) production and a revolving cast that, at one time, would have had Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman matching wits as gas leaks lead to fiery explosions tossing Nicholson head over heels into a past full of oranges, bruises, and femme fatales. 

In spite of its many cast changes before cameras were set to roll, The Two Jakes still pulls in ahead of its dismal reviews, leaving me to wonder just how many critics had their own bells rang by the same explosion that sent Nicholson flying across the screen as he finds the Mulrays won’t let him go. 

The film, upon its original release, was a bit of a financial disappointment which made any idea of their being a third film in the Gittes trilogy reduced to mere dust in the eye of famed producer Robert Evans.  The response to the film STILL puzzles me to this day and, upon watching Paramount’s bare-bones release of this film, it makes me a bit sad.

The Two Jakes, starring Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Eli Wallach, Ruben Blades, Frederic Forrest, and David Keith, deserved so much better from audiences and fans alike that it still stings as you witness Nicholson step into the familiar wingtips of Gittes, who walks the grizzled streets of Los Angeles circa 1948.  This time, he finds himself at the center of an investigation about his role in a sting operation gone awry, when Julius "Jake" Berman (Keitel) takes matters into his own hands upon the discovery of his wife (Tilly) in bed with his real estate business partner.Chinatown/The Two Jakes

Suddenly, Gittes has to prove that he’s not an accomplice to murder while Los Angeles is getting rocked with multiple earthquakes, making even walking to the office and trying to lock something important in the safe there a risky endeavor.  But when the widow (Stowe) of the dead business partner makes a move on Gittes, he surrenders body and soul to hear her story of how a wealthy businessman is screwing everyone by drilling UNDER their properties.

Co-starring Richard Farnsworth as Earl Rawley and Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, The Two Jakes is not as complicated as its legacy makes it out to be.  This is a solid story and its cinematography - smartly orchestrated by Vilmos Zsigmond (The Deer Hunter) - sizzles with neo-noir stylings and confident strides across the concrete jungle.

Written by Chinatown’s original screenwriter Robert Towne, The Two Jakes doesn’t miss a step in whisking us back into the familiar territory of orange orchards, steamy nights in Hollywood, popping pills, and real estate shenanigans.  The only thing this film doesn’t have is Roman Polanski behind the camera and John Huston in front of it. 

But what it does have is lots and lots of land as Gittes reminiscences about being unable to forget the past.  The Two Jakes is now on blu-ray thanks to Paramount, being included in their 4K handling of Chinatown’s re-release.

4/5 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

Oscar winner Jack Nicholson returns as private eye Jake Gittes in this atmospheric Chinatown follow-up. .Much has changed since we last saw Jake. The war has come and gone; 1948 Los Angeles teems with optimism and fast bucks. And that's the trail he follows when a routine case of marital hanky panky explodes into a murder that's tied to a grab for oil--and to Jake's own past.


With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, The Two Jakes sizzles on the television screen with warm, vibrant colors that its Southern California setting would indeed approve of.  The film looks good, with deep blacks and strong shadows.  Lines are defined and colors are bold, giving the land and the orchards a punched-up look.  Details in the fibers of Nicholson’s jackets and hats are visible, lines in the face, too. 


The dialogue and Van Dyke Parks score is handled by an expressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.


Sadly, there are no supplemental items.


  • None

Special Features:

  • None

4k rating divider

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  3/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 0/5 stars

Composite 4K UHD Grade

2.5/5 stars

Film Details

Chinatown/The Two Jakes

MPAA Rating: R.
137 mins
: Jack Nicholson
Robert Towne
Jack Nicholson; Harvey Keitel; Meg Tilly
: Drama | Noir

Memorable Movie Quote: ""Nine times out of ten, if you follow the money you will get to the truth.""
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 10, 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 18, 2024.
Synopsis: The sequel to Chinatown (1974) finds J.J. "Jake" Gittes investigating adultery and murder, and the money that comes from oil.


Chinatown/The Two Jakes