It is 1974. The World Trade Center opened in New York City. Richard Nixon resigned from office after the “Watergate Scandal.” The Universal Product Code was scanned for the first time to sell a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum. And “Chinatown” became a smash hit. Returning to the roots of classic film-noir movies, such as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Double Indemnity,” Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” sets the scene in the min 1940s. Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston, “Chinatown” was a setup for success. Although it was originally considered a “neo film-noir” movie, it has now settled in among the classic mystery flicks of all time.
“Chinatown” is the story of a private detective, J.J. Gittes (Nicholson), who is employed by a woman who claims to be the wife of Hollis Mulwray, a prominent official in the city of Los Angeles. This women is concerned that Hollis is cheating on her. Gittes eventually takes the case and starts to uncover other important details, including dried up river beds, Hollis Mulwray dead body, and eventually the real Mrs. Mulwray.
Throughout his investigation, Gittes uncovers a slew of conspiracies. He soon discovers that there is a very serious plot to buy up the San Fernando Valley by diverting the water supply so that the orange growers go broke and are forced to sell the land to these conspirators. After these conspirators obtain the land, they plan to use the water that was diverted in order to make the valley rich and prosperous again.
Gittes is fed up with all the lies. He is constantly being turned around and blindsided by facts. A man who likes to straighten things out, Gittes decides it is time to buckle down and figure out this whole case of corruption and secrecy.
Nicholson revives and revolutionizes the “film-noir hero.” Instead of playing the lonely, romantic, hero which was made famous throughout the noir genre by Humphrey Bogart, Nicholson plays a rather sad, lonely man. He is portrayed in a variety of ways throughout the film, as a tough guy wearing a patch over his battle scar, as a dirty jokester, and most importantly as a sympathetic man who just wants to help everyone and destroy the crimes he has stumbled upon. In fact, Nicholson’s role as J.J. Gittes essentially revolutionized his acting career and sent him to the top in terms of great actors.
“Chinatown” fits right in with classic film-noir mysteries of the 40s and 50s, making it into a classic itself. It is written in a way that the viewer feels as if they are back with J.J. Gittes in the mid-1940s every step of the way; leaves the viewers on the edge of their seats following the steps Gittes takes to solve this complicated murder. “Chinatown” is a classic made, especially, for fans of mystery movies, but also for fans of all types of classic movies.