Chinatown ★★★½

Roman Polanski's Chinatown is a classic noir that's as technically sound as they come. With Robert Towne's airtight screenplay, Polanski's steady hand and excellent performances by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway it's a damn good film. I didn't quite love it, but it's quality work nonetheless.

Private detective J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired to expose an adulterer, but instead finds himself caught in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder. Faye Dunaway also stars as Evelyn Mulwray the wife of the murdered Hollis Mulwray.

Knowing my own track record with classic or older films, I always go into them with measured expectations. It's rare I like them as well as their reputation so I simply don't get my hopes up. I try to put myself in the time the film was released and enjoy it for what it is. Roman Polanski's Chinatown didn't disappoint me like several classics have including his own Repulsion and to a certain extent Rosemary's Baby. You see those films were supposed to be thrilling and scary but I just didn't feel it when I watched them. They weren't bad films by any means I just didn't get the desired effect from them. With Chinatown it's listed as a noir, and there's no mistaking that's exactly what it is. Noir form beginning to end. Just when I'd think J.J. Gittes was getting ahead the story would slap me right in the face with another twist or turn. It's all very well done and the near perfect writing by Robert Towne is what I liked most about the film.

Great writing and solid direction check but what about the performances. Well they're excellent as well. At the time you couldn't go wrong with a young Jack Nicholson and the lovely Faye Dunaway and they most certainly didn't. Both give excellent performances with Nicholson in particular being perfect for the private detective role made popular by this type of noir film. He's a smart guy, good at his job, but is it all really worth it? By the end you may answer no, but for a guy like him the search for answers never ends. Nicholson is very believable as that type of man and he was a joy to watch.

If I'm honest I can't tell you there's really anything wrong with this film at all. When I find myself at the end of a film I feel is almost as close to perfect as you're going to get, I must then go to how did I feel about it or how did it make me feel. Chinatown is a film that's almost flawless on the technical end, but one with a story I thought was really good but didn't love. I knew I was watching a well made film throughout, but I never got that feeling that made me say man this is great. Parts of the 2 hour and 10 minute runtime were a little dull in my opinion, and it took the final act which I really liked for me to decide on a 3.5 rating instead of a 3. Maybe it was my issue with classic films creeping up again, but in the end I gotta go with my gut feeling which meant a 3.5 star rating. It's an excellent film everyone should see, because while I really liked it most fans of cinema are likely to love it.

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