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A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.

It is the Great Depression era, September 1937 and particularly, it is the period of the historic Los Angeles - Owens Valley Water Wars. J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a brash private investigator. Jake uses methods that will yield results; because his small firm depends on publicity, he is not shy with the media. Hollis Mulwray is the Commissioner and Chief Engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; given the circumstances and the issues of the times, Mulwray is one of the most powerful and influential politicians in the city. Jake is hired to follow Mulwray; he goes to a commission meeting and to various reservoirs, aqueducts, dams and waterways. Jake also tails him to a cozy apartment, where he snaps a photo of Mulwray in the clenches of a young blonde. The photo and juicy story make front page headlines. At his office, Jake is confronted by the real Mrs. Mulwray, (Faye Dunaway) an angry beauty, and her attorney, who hands Jake a law suit. With his reputation at stake, Jake is anxious to talk to Hollis Mulwray, but he is unable to locate Mulwray at his office or apartment or other haunts. At the Mulwray home, Evelyn Mulwray receives Jake, but she is evasive and uneven; then she offers to dismiss the law suit. When Jake persists, she suggests Jake try Oak Pass at Stone Canyon Reservoir, as her husband likes to walk there every day at lunch. Jake reaches Oak Pass and Hollis Mulwray is, indeed, at the reservoir, but so are the police. Mulwray fell, drowned, and his body washed up in a runoff channel. When Evelyn arrives at Oak Pass, she lies to the police, and Jake does not expose her lies. Evelyn piques Jake's interest and he makes further investigation. After an attack, Jake informs Evelyn her husband was murdered, Jake soon becomes embroiled within the mystery of Mulwray's death and other questions which arise: Who was the imposter and who hired her? Why was she hired? Who is Evelyn Mulwray and who's her daddy? Jake learns "gold" is really a five-letter word, more valuable than oil or diamonds, in this 1974 classic.


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