20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A killer of a movie,
This review is from: Chinatown [DVD] (DVD)
OK, it's confession time. I can't stand Jack Nicholson. I know the whole world and his wife gets moist and giggly about the man but the fact is that Nicholson gets my back up. On camera, he's limited, charmless, greedy, and self-indulgent. He exhausted his acting range years ago and has long since resorted to sneering, pulling lewd faces and chewing the scenery. As for the idea of Jack Nicholson as a sex symbol, the mere thought should be classed as a paraphilia. I would rather have nails knocked into me than watch him in a movie.
Any movie but this one, that is. Chinatown, quite simply, is exquisite. The script is faultless, so taut it twangs. The plot pushes relentlessly onward, becoming deeper and stranger with a harrowing inevitability - notice Polanski's unnerving cameo as the knife man.
The assembled talent is formidable; presumably the splendour and gravity of Polanski, Dunaway, and John Huston together was enough to keep Nicholson's antics under wraps. Faye Dunaway confronts us with brittle patrician arrogance and slowly allows it to give way to something desperate and dark. Huston radiates malevolence from the first and his presence throbs through the background of the entire film, whether he's on-screen or off. Incidentally, bear in mind that Huston was Jack's real life father-in-law when he looks Nicholson in the eye and demands, "Are you sleeping with my daughter?" The screen crackles.
And what about Nicholson as Jake Gittes? It's the only time you'll see it, but he's excellent. It's a generous, nuanced performance of a man struggling to pursue a truth down through more layers of corruption than he can bear, compelled despite himself to reach the bottom. His easy charm and playfulness at the beginning of the film gradually sour as the bleak horror of his discoveries unfold. The role calls for great subtlety and inner struggle. Nicholson, to his great credit, is equal to it, matching the mastery of his co-stars blow for blow.
Chinatown deserves all the accolades it has accumulated over the years, and more besides. Buy it, watch it, keep it.