Hollis Mulwray is a chief engineer of the water department. Ida Sessions, pretending to be his wife Evelyn, asks private investigator Jake Gittes to investigate his adulterous ways. Jake takes photos of Hollis with a young lady. Hollis then turns up murdered, which Jake decides to investigate. Jake finds more than he was looking for. He discovers a plot to buy cheap, unwatered land for low prices, water the land, and sell it for millions of dollars. The plot is masterminded by one Noah Cross, who is Evelyn's father and Hollis' one-time business partner. His investigation leads him to an affair with Evelyn and a discussion with Noah Cross, both of whom seem curiously interested in the girl Hollis was seen with.
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