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Case Number 12372

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The Two Jakes: Special Collector's Edition

Paramount // 1990 // 137 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // November 9th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab is convinced that Hollywood really needs to make the The Three Roys, starring Roy Hobbs from The Natural, Roy Munson from Kingpin, and Roy McAvoy from Tin Cup.

The Charge

"If you follow the money, you will get to the truth."

Opening Statement

The Two Jakes is the sequel to the classic Chinatown. However, The Two Jakes did not receive anything near the acclaim of its predecessor. Further, the 1990 sequel also marks the last directorial effort of Jack Nicholson. Could a disappointing film be on the horizon? All signs points to "yes."

With respect to The Two Jakes: Special Collector's Edition, Paramount stretches the meaning of "Special Collector's Edition" to its breaking point.

Facts of the Case

Life is looking good for Jake Gittes (Nicholson) in 1948 Los Angeles, ten years after Chinatown. His detective agency is booming. He owns his building and is a member of an exclusive country club. He has a fiancée. However, Gittes's life is thrown for a loop when one of his clients, Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel, Cop Land), commits murder. Berman walks in on his wife having an affair with his business partner and shoots him. Is it a crime of passion or a premeditated murder? As Gittes searches for the truth his past begins to creep back into his life.

The Evidence

Even if one could forget Chinatown was ever made, The Two Jakes would still be considered below par. It's hard to believe that screenwriter Robert Towne (Tequila Sunrise) and Nicholson fashioned such a clumsy and clunky film. They had collaborated on Chinatown, of course, but also the tremendous Hal Ashby film The Last Detail. Yet, here it is: The Two Jakes never picks up any steam after the initial killing occurs. It merely grinds ever more closely to a complete halt during its overlong 137-minute runtime.

The problems begin with the story. It begins well enough with the murder. However, before long, more and more characters emerge, seeming to have more to with introducing complications for the sake of complications rather than advancing anything meaningful.

We have Mrs. Bodine (Madeline Stowe, 12 Monkeys), the wife of Jake Berman's dead business partner. This makes sense. But then we get Mickey Nice (Rubén Blades, Once Upon A Time In Mexico), a business associate of Berman, who randomly pops in and out of the picture to intimidate Gittes. We have Earl Rawley (Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story), a business associate of Mr. Bodine who may or may not have an interest in the parcel of land owned by Bodine and Berman. We have Det. Lt. Loach (David Keith, Major League II), the son of Det. Loach from Chinatown, who has a hate-on for Gittes. Then Gittes's fiancée shows up for a couple of seconds and disappears. There are more, many more. Too many to mention.

Needless to say, the film suffers from character and twist overload. It's difficult to keep track of who is doing what to whom and for what reason (if there is a decipherable one). The heavy use of voiceover by Gittes throughout the film draws further attention to the confusing story. By the time everything is revealed you'll likely be too exhausted to notice, care, or understand (What is Berman rambling on and on about at the end?).

The biggest surprises (or disappointments) in this film are the poor performances. This is astonishing for a movie featuring both Nicholson and Keitel. The actors seem to be reading their lines from a very slow teleprompter. Almost all the performances are drained of any energy (except for Stowe, who tends to act overly hysterical). Most of the time, characters talk and move as if suffering from severe depression or having taken a heavy dose of tranquilizers.

What are the "extras" on this Special Collector's Edition? Well, there is an 18-minute interview with Jack Nicholson, called "Jack on Jakes," and the theatrical trailer. That's it. There are only two extras. This is not special. Nicholson discusses the film and indicates that this was a troubled production from the very beginning. It took about eight years to get the film made. And there appear to have been significant problems with the script. Also, Nicholson states that there was to be a third film. However, the poor response to The Two Jakes appears to have quashed those ambitious designs permanently.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Those who love film noir with accompanying hardboiled dialogue will probably enjoy this film.

The video transfer is excellent, highlighting some stunning scenes captured by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance). The audio is clear, something that is absolutely necessary for this dialogue-heavy film.

Closing Statement

The Two Jakes is a convoluted movie that overstays its welcome.

Additionally, this DVD release must be one of the most bare-bones "Special Collector's Edition" ever issued.

If you already own The Two Jakes there is no compelling reason to go out and buy this version.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 90
Extras: 40
Acting: 60
Story: 60
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• English
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 137 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama
• Film Noir
• Mystery

Distinguishing Marks

• "Jack on Jakes" Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer

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