*Spoilers ahead* One key to understanding and appreciating the sequel to Chinatown (1974) is to disregard the politics surrounding the film’s origins. Originally, Robert Towne, the writer of the film and Chinatown, was supposed to direct the sequel. But Jack Nicholson stepped in as director in order to stop the talk of lawsuits regarding the film. One of the producers of The Two Jakes (1990) Robert Evans, was originally supposed to play the other Jake, the role Harvey Keitel ended up playing.
Nicholson admitted that all the behind-the-scenes drama affected the reception the film during its release in 1990.
However, despite this drama, the film was not horrible.
Famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote:
“Here at long last is Jack Nicholson’s The Two Jakes, seven years in the trade papers, center of prolonged teeth-gnashing at Paramount Pictures, and it turns out to be such a focused and concentrated film that every scene falls into place like clockwork; there’s no feeling that it was a problem picture.”
This film is definitely a sequel to Chinatown in that it was part two of what was supposed to be a three-part story focused on J. J. Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson.
Here, Nicholson’s character is ten years older than he was in Chinatown.
A visit by the other Jake of the title, Jake Berman, played by Keitel, puts the plot in motion.
Berman visits Gittes about his wife (Meg Tilly) who he suspects is being unfaithful.
As Gittes gets caught up in the case, he starts to investigate the mineral rights that once belonged to the Mulwray family.
The biggest discovery is that Berman’s wife is actually Katherine “Kitty” Mulwray.
This brings back all sorts of feelings for Gittes because he was in love with Katherine’s mother and sister, Evelyn Mulwray.
Evelyn had died in the first film and the Mulwray legacy had passed onto Katherine.
Katherine was the one who signed away the land and mineral rights.
The film isn’t just about love, but also about legacy.
While many things change, Chinatown is the one thing that never will change in Jake’s mind.
It still remains to him a symbol of everything he lost in life and where people will never find justice.
Gittes will protect anyone or anything connected to any events that happened there.
Katherine Mulwray represents someone precious to him.
Nicholson is brilliant as Gittes, a character screenwriter Towne wrote specifically for him.
The film never stops, and like Chinatown, it keeps you glued to wherever you are sitting.
While it’s unlikely that there will be a sequel because the film didn’t earn enough to match its production budget, it’s intriguing to think what happened to Gittes and Mulwray.
For now, the secrets of whatever happened to Gittes will remain secret.
By Tommy Zimmer
Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.