The Two Jakes

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The Two Jakes
Two jakes poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jack Nicholson
Produced by
Written by Robert Towne
Music by Van Dyke Parks
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Anne Goursaud
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • August 10, 1990 (1990-08-10)
Running time
138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million
Box office $10 million[1]

The Two Jakes is a 1990 American neo-noir mystery film, and the sequel to the 1974 film Chinatown. Directed by and starring Jack Nicholson, it also features Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Richard Farnsworth, Frederic Forrest, David Keith, Rubén Blades, Tracey Walter and Eli Wallach. Reprising their roles from Chinatown are Joe Mantell, Perry Lopez, James Hong, Allan Warnick[2] and, in a brief voice-over, Faye Dunaway. The character of Katherine Mulwray returns as well, played by Tilly. The musical score for the film is by Van Dyke Parks, who also appears as a prosecuting attorney. The screenplay is by Robert Towne, whose script for Chinatown won an Academy Award.

It was released by Paramount Pictures on August 10, 1990. The film was not a box office success and plans for a third film about J. J. Gittes, with him near the end of his life, were abandoned.


In Los Angeles in 1948, Julius "Jake" Berman hires private investigator J. J. "Jake" Gittes to catch his wife, Kitty, in the act of committing adultery. During the sting, Berman kills his rival, who also happens to be his business partner in a real estate development company. Gittes, not having known this, suddenly finds himself under scrutiny for his role in the possible crime, all of which centers around a wire recording that captured the illicit love meeting, the confrontation, and the killing of Mark Bodine. It calls into question if Berman knew and killed his partner to wrest control of the partnership, making it murder, or was an act of jealousy, which may qualify as "temporary insanity" and be permitted as a defense to a charge of murder.

Gittes must convince LAPD captain Escobar that he should not be charged as an accomplice. Oddly, Berman seems unconcerned with the possibility that he may be accused of murder. Gittes has the recording, which Berman's attorney, Cotton Weinberger, and mobster friend Mickey Nice, both want, locked in a safe in his office in L.A., which is being rocked by earthquakes. Berman's housing development in the Valley also is experiencing seismic activities. Gittes is nearly killed in a gas explosion, waking to find Berman and wife, Kitty, standing over him.

Gittes has a confrontation, and later a sexual encounter, with Lilian Bodine, the dead man's angry widow. He is presented with proof that Earl Rawley, a wealthy and ruthless oil man, may be drilling under the Bodine and Berman development, though Rawley has denied it. This leads to a need to determine who owns the mineral rights to the land. Gittes discovers that the rights are owned by one Katherine Mulwray, daughter of Evelyn Mulwray, his love interest from twelve years prior. He also discovers that the deed transfers were executed in such a way as to attempt to hide Katherine Mulwray's prior ownership and continued claim of the mineral rights.

Gittes operatives have seen Berman in the company of a blond woman along with Mickey, and a bodyguard. With a bit of sleuthing Gittes determines that the woman is an oncologist and is treating Berman for cancer somewhere below the waist. Gittes confronts Berman with this knowledge and gets a full confession. Along the way, Gittes discovers that Berman is not going to survive and the entire set-up was to ensure that Kitty was protected once he died.

In order to get Kitty to talk to him, Gittes must prove that Berman set out to kill his partner. Once accomplished, Kitty agrees to meet Gittes and tell him what she knows about Berman. In the process of discussing Berman's possible motivations, mineral rights, and the possible whereabouts of Katherine, it is revealed that Kitty and Katherine are the same person. Kitty had never suspected that her husband is dying.

In order to prove premeditation, passion, and perhaps even connections to a woman long missing, seemingly everyone wants the recording, which Gittes refuses to give up until the day of the inquest. Somehow, Gittes edits the recording, leaving Katherine's name chopped out of the dialog, shooting, and aftermath of Lillian's murder. This makes the inquest a short, satisfying meeting where the judge has no reason to suspect murder, and Berman is now free of criminal charges. Confronted with the knowledge Gittes has of his terminal illness, Berman, knowing the model house he is in is filled with natural gas, convinces Gittes and Mickey to leave him alone in the house so he can "have a smoke." He doesn't want an autopsy to interfere with Kitty's inheritance. As they drive off, the house explodes.

The story ends with Kitty and Gittes in his office. They speak of regrets, and Kitty kisses Gittes, who rejects her advances, saying "That's your problem, kid. You don't know who you're kidding." She leaves, telling him to "Think of me time to time". Gittes tells her, "It never goes away."



Made 16 years after its famous predecessor, the film had a very troubled production, and was supposed to be made around 1985. Originally, producer Robert Evans was to play the "second" Jake, but Towne, who was going to direct the film at that time, did not think he was the right choice and fired him. After this, Nicholson ended up directing (and it is the last film he directed to date).[3]


Unlike its predecessor, the film was not a box-office success,[4] was not nominated for any awards and critical reception was very mixed, although it found some success in the home media market.[5] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 68%, based on 19 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10.[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 56 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5/4 stars, writing that "every scene falls into place like clockwork [...] exquisite".[7] Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, called it "an enjoyable if clunky movie".[8] Variety called the film "a jumbled, obtuse yet not entirely unsatisfying follow-up to Chinatown".[9] Desson Howe, writing for The Washington Post, said that "at best, the movie comes across as a competently assembled job, a wistful tribute to its former self. At worst, it's wordy, confusing and – here's an ugly word – boring".[10]

Cancelled sequel

Screenwriter Robert Towne originally planned a trilogy involving private investigator J. J. Gittes. The third film, called Gittes vs. Gittes, was to be set in 1968 and deal with Gittes' divorce. However, after The Two Jakes was a commercial failure, plans for a third film were scrapped.[11]


  1. ^ "The Two Jakes (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  2. ^ "Allan Warnick". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  3. ^ "The Two Jakes (1990) : Trivia". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  4. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-08-13). "The Two Jakes Fails to Do Land-Office Business". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  5. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1991-03-14). "VIDEO RENTALS : Roberts Shows Her Box-Office Clout". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  6. ^ "The Two Jakes". Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  7. ^ "The Two Jakes". Chicago Sun Times. 1990-08-10. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (1990-08-10). "A Jake Gittes Who's Older (And Wider)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  9. ^ "The Two Jakes". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  10. ^ "The Two Jakes". The Washington Post. 1990-08-10. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  11. ^ Horowitz, Josh (6 November 2007). "Jack Nicholson Talks! In Rare Interview, Actor Reveals Details of Never-Shot 'Chinatown' Sequel". MTV. Archived from the original on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

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