Chinatown - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Chinatown Reviews

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½ September 21, 2017
This American neo-noir mystery film certainly has its plot twists and turns. It features solid acting from the impressive cast, with Nicholson being the stand-out. Although there are a few slow periods, the desire to find out the ending will keep you interested. Considered to be one of the best movies of all time and one of the top three mystery movies of all time. AAN GGW 1001
September 17, 2017
an ok film where jack plays a detective
September 14, 2017
Following the private-eye, noir formula in some ways and cleverly subverting it in others, this film is a dazzling mixture of superb script, deft sure-footed, confident direction and truly great acting.
I don't think Nicholson has ever been better (which is really saying something). His performance is so brilliant that he lifts the performances of those around him, meaning that, even if you were on the look-out for the duff one amongst the great ones, you wouldn't find it.
There is absolutely nothing about this film that is not absolutely top-drawer. You come away from it feeling you really have seen one of the truly great pieces of American cinema, and there aren't many films that you can genuinely say that about.
August 31, 2017
ghghghghghghghghghgooh!
Super Reviewer
August 30, 2017
In the 1970's a bunch of American filmmakers and actors were given a bunch of money and told to just go away and make movies. And that they did. The consistent results led to the 70's arguably being the best decade in cinema that America has ever produced. We were gifted such classics as Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's, Mean Streets, The Godfathers and Dog Day Afternoon. Chinatown is another of those films that can be considered a classic among this elite list and one of a few from this era of filmmaking that time has been most kind to.

Plot: In 1937 Los Angeles, private detective JJ 'Jake' Gittes (Jack Nicholson) specialises in matrimonial/cheating spouse cases. When he is hired by Evelyn Mulwray who suspects her husband Hollis - a high-profile engineer - of having an affair, he gets on the case and produces photographs of him with a young girl. It soon transpires that Jake was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). When Hollis is found dead by drowning, Jake finds himself involved in a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest, and corruption that are all related to the city's water supply.

Opening with Jerry Goldsmith's seductive and evocative noir score, Chinatown establishes it's mood from the very opening credit sequence and a perfect introduction of what to expect. Paying homage to the traditional gumshoe approach of Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, Roman Polanski has a confident handle on Robert Towne's meticulously detailed screenplay. No sooner are we introduced to Private Investigator Jake Gittes as he surveys the sun-kissed lands of Los Angeles while applying the tricks of his trade to tail and investigate the latest of his infidelity cases. Like all good noir's, however, our doggedly determined P.I. soon stumbles onto something much bigger. In this case, the possibility of murder and the financial benefits of gentrification. As a result, Chinatown becomes a labyrinthine puzzle of a wider political spectrum that reaches far beyond anything expected and where nothing is quite as it seems.

It's apparent from the offset that Chinatown is an impeccably crafted film with a measured pace and an attention to detail that has rarely been matched. There's so much on display that it's obvious that the entire cast and crew are operating at the top of their game; Richard Sylbert's production design perfectly captures the look and feel for 1930's L.A. and it's complimented greatly with John A. Alonzo's sumptuous cinematography. It's the twists and turns of Towne's Oscar winning script that impress the most, though. He keeps us at arms length for the majority of the film and never forces his hand a minute too soon. Nothing is rushed here as it marvels in patience. Even the title of the movie is elusive and doesn't fully make sense until the film is given time to play out. In the meantime, Towne and Polanski tease with smidgens of information peppered throughout the narrative. For the first time viewer this could be a slight challenge but Chinatown has grown in its stature over the years because it's has replay value. In fact, it demands it. This is not a film that can be appreciated in one sitting but if invested in, it all comes together masterfully.

Even Jack Nicholson and his penchant for grandstanding is kept to a minimum. Nicholson keeps his usual histrionics at bay and although he displays flashes of his energetic approach to a character, his Jake Gittes is a far more reserved performance. Oscar nominated for his work, some still claim this to be Jack's best performance and it's not hard to see why.

An elusive masterpiece of mystery and intrigue. The beauty of Chinatown's narrative lies in the deceitful lies told by it's characters. So much of the dialogue and interactions are not what they seem and it maintains a sense of secrecy and mistrust that the story and film thrive on. At one point, John Huston's callous and calculated Noah Cross says... "You may believe you know what you're dealing with but you don't" - this quote, in itself, sums up the film which also has a knock-out reveal that you, simply, don't see coming.

It may be blasphemous to some (if not many) but my favourite of the sub-genre is still Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential. That said, Hanson's vision for that James Ellroy adaptation would, most likely, never have been possible had it not been for Chinatown leading the way in its style and composition. This is a timeless piece of cinema. Of course, the 1930's setting lends a hand but Chinatown hasn't aged in over 40 years which is a real testament to Polanski's approach to the material and the exemplary work by all involved.

Mark Walker
½ August 29, 2017
A great detective movie with a lot of suspense! Jack Nicholson gives an amazing performance as JJ Gitties and and rest of the cast does great as well! There are some sad parts in the movie that really stand out and it's a great movie!
August 27, 2017
A drama mystery masterpiece, Chinatown relishes in fine music with Jack Nicholson's performance as Detective Jake Gittes
July 21, 2017
A part of me remains on the couch I first watched it on, rewatching it has become ritualistic and profound.
July 19, 2017
Great film that shows many current problems within society, such as weaknesses within the system, how justice is bought, not blind, and how bureaucracy and money stifle justice from those who try to actually get it.
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2017
An excellent screenplay and a willing crew are all up to task of peeling back the layers of a society not as innocent as it likes to pretend. Nicholson is a detective who accepts that there might be some corruption in the world but decides to limit the avalanche against his better judgment. And although released in the mid70s the idea expressed is that this crap has been going on for awhile. Required viewing for those who appreciate social commentary with their entertainment.
June 13, 2017
The film began as a perfectly constructed detective/mystery film. Contrasting the transparency of Gittes with the confusion of both the story and other characters served to create a perfect mystery atmosphere. Yet the film dragged your attention away from the most powerful aspect of the narrative. In covering the nature of the film's main complication Polanski masterfully masked the true mystery. As we were concentrating on who may be dumping gallons of freshwater during a major drought, a mother struggled with her chaotic and tragically incestuous relationship with her daughter. While the main antagonist was ultimately presented as being the most obviously fitting character it was not for the crime the audience expected. It was for something completely unexpected and shocking. Therefore, Polanski inverted the conventional nature of a mystery film (it was not "who" had done it, but "what" in fact he had done.) On top of this was the role of the detective Gittes, who returned to the life he had left behind. By the end of the film, it became obvious that I was watching a tragedy. The film took so long to perfectly craft a mystery, which was ultimately never solved. Yet the brilliance of Polanski lies in the fact I no longer cared. What I cared more about was about what was introduced only minutes before. The destruction of a mother and daughters shocking yet optimistic relationship.
June 3, 2017
It was cool until I saw who directed it.
May 30, 2017
Chinatown is as beautiful and lucid as any old school thriller before it, and as such doesn't vie for the darkness of noir and cheapness of neo-noir, but in substitution lets Polanski construct an unprecedented original.
½ May 6, 2017
The greatest film noir made in modern times, and one of the best ever, this film can be seen many times and still provides new joys of discovery and insight. A perfect marriage of story, screenplay, direction, acting and cinematography. Chinatown is engrossing, thrilling, entertaining and disturbing.
½ April 25, 2017
Chinatown is neo-noir that takes all the best aspects of past films in the genre and makes them all work together. It also manipulates the viewer by taking what you expect from classic noirs and putting a new spin on it. I loved how this movie kept me guessing and hit me with some big surprises that shocked me. That's really all you can ask from a mystery movie.

There are a number of slow moments, or at least moments of quiet and calm before the storm. In my opinion it worked because that deliberate pace allowed the tension and anticipation to grow. Every moment I was anxious to see what was next and if I would finally get a clue that would tell me whodunnit.

It doesn't hurt that I love Jack Nicholson. His performance in Chinatown delivers everything I want in a classic private eye character. He is often the smartest guy in the room, he is tough as nails, and he is wise-cracking as well. Faye Dunaway had a tough job as the female co-star. There was a lot of emotional heavy-lifting in that role, which she managed well.

There isn't much more I can say about Chinatown. It clicked all the boxes, and I didn't notice many flaws in the entire thing. I need to give it some time and a few more watches before I claim it as one of my favorites, but I think it will hold up. This is one of those critically acclaimed masterpieces that actually deserves all the praise, and I would gladly recommend it to others.
April 18, 2017
Polanski is worth watching no matter what he does !
½ April 9, 2017
messy and depressing.. in a weirdly good way
March 25, 2017
Nicholson, Dunaway, and the great John Hurt in a crime story / film noir with a twist...
March 20, 2017
I really want to see China-Town as New Movies are usually badly-acted.
The Photos and Videos are good so 10/10!
February 22, 2017
This is a masterpiece with the best work from Robert Town, Roman Polanski and the lead actors Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Everything in this film was thought out flawlessly and Polanski guides the atmosphere in this film brilliantly. Jack Nicholson delivers every scene in high gear and Faye Dunaway's performance seems better with each viewing. This film covers is easily one of the best films I have ever seen and an absolute must see for any aspiring actors, screenwriters, or directors.
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