Los Angeles, 1948. Jake Berman has hired private investigator Jake "J.J." Gittes to catch his wife in the act of committing adultery. During the sting, Berman shoots the man who turns out to be his partner in a real estate company. Gittes, now under intense scrutiny for his unwitting part in the crime, must figure out if it was justifiable homicide or murder and how it connects with California's booming oil industry as well as his own past after he stumbles upon a wire recording during the investigation that mentions Katherine Mulwray, the daughter of Faye Dunaway's ill-fated character from Chinatown.

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