The Two Jakes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jack Nicholson directs and stars as upscale Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes in the much-awaited, much delayed sequel to Chinatown (1974), scripted, like its predecessor, by Robert Towne and set 11 years later, when Gittes is fatter and even more cynical about his work. Harvey Keitel costars as the other Jake, Meg Tilly plays his unfaithful wife, and this time the local real estate issue is oil rather than water. Despite an extremely complex plot that's not always easy to follow, Towne's script, brimming with witty and cynical dialogue, has the functional beauty of a well-made car. Nicholson's eclectic direction, which occasionally strains after unorthodox angles, doesn't always have the story-telling mastery that the script requires (although it's well served by Vilmos Zsigmond's lush cinematography and evocative production design), but otherwise this is a worthy successor to Chinatown--full of ecological and geological insights into Los Angeles history that recall Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald and give a view of southern California that probably could be written only by a native. With Madeleine Stowe, Eli Wallach, Ruben Blades, Frederic Forrest, David Keith, Richard Farnsworth, Joe Mantell, and Perry Lopez. (Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Golf Mill, Esquire, Old Orchard, Webster Place, Ford City, Harlem-Cermak)

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