This movie may be one of the most cited, adored, and/or iconic examples of the neo-noir film. It takes place in 1930s Los Angeles, shortly before film noir originally became a thing. In that way, it works on many levels as a neo-noir film.
As befits the genre, the plot is convoluted to the point where it takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate its nuances. J.J. “Jake” Giddes (played the Prince of Eyebrows, Jack Nicholson) takes on a case for a woman he believes to be Evelyn Mulwray (played by someone whose name I can’t remember), the wife of Hollis Mulwray, chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. She claims Hollis may be cheating on her. So Giddes goes out and gets photos of Mulwray, paddling about in a rowboat with the alleged mistress. And these photos end up making front page news. Above the fold, back in the days when news was delivered in newspapers.
But nothing is as it seems, of course. As it turns out, the woman who hired Giddes isn’t Mrs. Mulwray at all. The real Evelyn Mulwray turns out to be Faye Dunaway. And she’s pissed. Mrs. Mulwray (the real one) threatens to sue Giddes.
However, if Mrs. Mulwray is pissed, then Giddes is doubly so. And while he tries to deduce what the fuck is going on, Mrs. Mulwray decides to drop the suit, telling Giddes to please forget the whole thing.
As you see, Mrs. Mulwray runs hot and cold on this matter, which only raises Giddes suspicions more. Not to mention that he’s attracted to her, naturally. But then her husband ends up … well, dead!
Anyhoo, the trail Giddes follows ends up leading to Noah Cross, who is not only Mrs. Mulwray’s father, but also Mr. Mulwray’s sort of partner. And on top of that … well, see the movie, because to say more would be telling.
Without going further into all the gory details, let’s just say that Giddes pays through the nose for his continuing inquiries.
Furthermore, Mulwray’s killer turns out to be the most evil of men. And as Giddes tries to do Evelyn Mulwray a good deed, things end on the note that no good deed goes unpunished.
This a classic that truly deserves two thumbs up! 🙂