The Two Jakes (1990)

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Released 5-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-2:52
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 131:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jack Nicholson

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Jack Nicholson
Harvey Keitel
Meg Tilly
Madeleine Stowe
Eli Wallach
Ruben Blades
Frederick Forrest
David Keith
Richard Farnsworth
Perry Lopez
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Van Dyke Parks

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes, extensive, as suits the setting
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    How do you make a sequel to a classic movie? Usually the answer is "badly". For a number of reasons it's fairly easy to get funding to make a sequel, especially a sequel to a movie that did well. My theory is that the ease of getting funding for a sequel means that people don't try as hard; they don't put as much effort into the preparation for the sequel, they don't put as much effort into the making of the sequel, and the results are what we see far too often - a sequel that does not live up to the original.

    So I approached this film with apprehension. I liked Chinatown. I liked it a lot. I was afraid that The Two Jakes would be a standard sequel, and that I'd be disappointed. And I think that was a good thing - anticipating the worst, I was pleasantly surprised. Oh, it's not as good as the original, but that leaves plenty of room - the original rates number 19 on the American Film Institute's top 100 films of all time.

    They brought back a lot of the participants from the original (well, those whose characters were still alive, anyway...). Of course, our central character is still J. J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson), looking quite a bit older - that's understandable given that the original film was set in 1937, and this one is set eleven years later, after the end of the Second World War. Lieutenant Escobar (Perry Lopez) is now Captain Escobar, but still working in homicide (after losing a leg in the war). His side-kick, Loach, is no longer around, but now we have his son (David Keith) playing the bad cop. Gittes' offsider Walsh (Joe Mantell) is still around, too. Even Khan (James Hong) makes a brief appearance. Clearly matrimonial work is quite profitable for Gittes Investigations - they have their own building now.

    We have the same writer (Robert Towne), but a different director this time. Maybe Roman Polanski wasn't interested, or maybe he wasn't asked - Jack Nicholson directs this time. I have to say that he is not as good as Polanski - things aren't as well-controlled and deliberate, and there are holes in a couple of performances. Perhaps the least credible performance comes from Madeleine Stowe - her initial appearance is a bad performance, and she really doesn't get much better. That's unusual for her, so I feel the blame should probably rest with the director.

    This movie is not just a sequel in the sense of involving the same characters. It also follows some of the events of the original; in particular, it follows the land that was the prize in the original film. If you haven't seen the original (and you should, really!) you can still follow the plot, because they recap what you need to know. There are a couple of flashbacks to scenes from the original film, too. Even so, I strongly urge you to watch the original first - heck, I strongly recommend that you watch the original whether you watch this one or not. And because of that, I really don't want to say any more about the plot of this film or how it relates to the previous one. This plot is large, and convoluted, so you have to pay close attention if you are to make sense of some of the key details.

    There's quite a bit happening in this film, what with earthquakes and explosions, but it is somewhat tamer than the original - the edge is missing. In Chinatown, Polanski manages to build tension with a few gunshots and a knife; Nicholson doesn't have the same skill, but that's understandable, given that this was the first film he directed.

    Is this a good film? Well, it's good, and certainly not a waste of time. But is it as good as Chinatown? No.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can ascertain, the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so that's reasonably close. I think this transfer is slightly cropped on the edges, rather than having the top and bottom expanded, judging by the framing of a few shots.

    The picture is sharp and clear, with excellent shadow detail, and no low level noise. There is a little but of film grain, but it is quite light.

    Colour is excellent. There is no over-saturation, and no bleed.

    The opening Paramount logo is splattered with flecks and spots - it made me fear for the worst. Fortunately, the film proper is cleaner - there are quite a few tiny spots and flecks, and a strange little stain at the top of a frame at 46:59, but they are far from troubling. There's some aliasing, and some background shimmer, but overall this is a rather clean transfer.

    There are twenty four subtitle tracks, including both English subtitles and captions. I watched the English subtitles - they are well-timed, accurate, and easy to read - I didn't spot any serious mistakes.

    The disc is single sided and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is located at 75:22, and I'm sorry to say that it's a bad one - the frame smears and stalls, making it horribly obvious. Had it been placed a fraction of a second later, it would have been close to invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are soundtracks in six languages. I listened to the English soundtrack, which happens to be Dolby Digital 5.1. It is a bit quiet - I had to raise the volume about 3dB to make it audible, and 6dB to make the dialogue more understandable.

    The dialogue is somewhat difficult to understand in places. There's one line which is subtitled, but I couldn't hear at all (there are advantages to watching with the subtitles on!). There are no audio sync problems, but there is one obvious ADR slip - at 72:18, Meg Tilly manages to deliver a line with her mouth shut.

    The score is by Van Dyke Parks, but the most important parts are songs (and advertising jingles) from the period - nice choices.

    It is hard to understand why they bothered with a 5.1 mix - there's nothing of consequence from the rears in the entire soundtrack. The subwoofer gets a chance to show off during the earthquakes and explosions, but it's not very important. The original soundtrack was stereo.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (2:52)

    This trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced. As usual, it contains too many spoilers for me to recommend watching it before seeing the film. Interestingly, it makes repeated mention of "instant cameras", despite the lack of mention of them in the movie proper.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc was released in March 2002. It has exactly the same features as this R4 disc. The only difference (apart from the standard PAL vs NTSC differences) is that the R4 has a plethora of languages, while the R1 has only English and French sound, and English subtitles. I can see no reason to prefer one disc over the other.


    The Two Jakes is a complicated story of machinations and motives, presented reasonably nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is rather good.

    The audio quality is reasonably good.

    The extra is minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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