Lack of conviction vies with lack of tension for ultimate supremacy in this messy private-eye case, written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski, set in the 1930s, fashionably. What you comprehend of the case seems not at all correct, and the rest rushes right past you, out to sea. An occasional image arouses a certain nostalgia for the long-gone heyday of the hard-boiled private detective (Jack Nicholson slicing through space with the brim of his fedora, or furtively rummaging through a desk drawer and riffling through check stubs), and Jerry Goldsmith's insidious music further stirs things up; but the chic golden light and the widescreen shots of pumpkin-like faces or, Polanski's preference, of backs of heads, tend to weigh things down. Bigger mystery than the one in the plot: What interested Polanski about this project? With Faye Dunaway and John Huston. (1974) — Duncan Shepherd
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