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The Black Dahlia 2006
Description: Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert are former boxers-turned-cops in 1940s Los Angeles and, when an aspiring young actress turns up dead, Blanchard and Bleichert gotta grapple with corruption, narcissism, stag movies and family madness as they pursue the killer.
Released: 15 Sep 2006 Director: Brian De Palma Writers: Josh Friedman (screenplay), James Ellroy (novel) Actors: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
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The Black Dahlia Reviews:

Anybody expecting to receive a nice acc of the Black Dahlia case, even fictional, will be disappointed going in to this movie. Of course, I knew that it was a fictionalization of the case, but I had no concept the film would show its own evidence and draw its own conclusions.But the main trouble here is not the lack of factual detail, so much as the confusion of plot that surrounds and overwhelms the Black Dahlia situation itself. So much plot and hero and sideplots and backstory are built around the central characters that the situation itself seems like a distraction. A key plot mission and hero motivator is the fascination of the two detectives with the murder, but this is never elaborated enough in the film, and we're left to half-heartedly guess at the hero motivations.The tone is never consistently campy, but when the camp arrives it overwhelms the story. A dinner stage between a suspect and her family had the crowd in stitches (the only stage during which the audience laughed). The trouble is that the stage is valuable to the plot and could never have been played for laughs. Hitchcock or even Lynch should have shot the same scene, with the same happenings and dialogue, and made it menacing and creepy, which it required to be to function in the mystery.Other problems: De Palma uses the lesbian angle of the film (never a part of the case) to full exploitative advantage, and the actresses seem unable to master to the expressive 1940s style acting that would have come naturally to even a marginal 40s star.Although the movie brings a clearcut finale rather than a vague puzzle, too many loose threads come together too neatly and rather than bringing the movie to a satisfactory conclusion, it leaves you scratching your head, is this what I spent the last 2 hours waiting to hear? Overall, there is too much plot, too tiny hero development and a wildly uneven tone. The film has its moments but it's a blinding mess all together.


"The Black Dahlia" is a long, bloated, confusing, self-important, self-consciously artsy film undermined by miscasting, absurd plot turns, naive symbolism, an utter disdain for history and laughable overacting that create Robert Towne's ponderous, plodding "Chinatown" sequel, "Two Jakes" (1990), look like a taut thriller.The most marked difference between "Dahlia" and another classics of the more newest category is that although "L.A. Confidential" is firmly planted in the 1950s and "Chinatown" takes zone in the 1930s, De Palma's movie has shallow roots "once upon a time in Los Angeles." Clearly, a film nominally set in 1943-47 in which the lead characters attend a silent film ("The Boy Who Laughs, " 1928--note that the characters are sitting in the balcony, which was reserved for blacks back in the ugly days of segregation. Oops!) has nothing but contempt for the past, which is reflected in a thousand ways, from male actors' scruffy haircuts and inability to wear hats properly to a laughable lesbian nightclub stage featuring K.D. Lang in top hat and tails singing "Love for Sale," which rather than depicting the classic movie noir era is most evocative of "Bugsy Malone," a far more accurate film.One can search fatal flaws in virtually each zone of this film with tiny effort—in fact the most hard task in critiquing the movie is remembering everything that's wrong with it.First, there's Josh Friedman's dialog: "She looks like that dead girl! How sick are you?"—not quite "She's my sister and my daughter," is it? Then there's miscasting (at 31, Kirshner is much too old to enjoy the 22-year-old Black Dahlia), opulent production design by Dante Ferretti (police officers lived like this on LAPD pay? Who knew?), melody (Mark Isham in the entirely predictable "cue mournful trumpet" genre), odd costuming—Friday casual for the men, fall collection for the women—(Jenny Beavan), down to the crowd scenes, which are busy to the mission of distraction. And I want I had the cigarette holder franchise on this film. I would be a rich man.Even unique results are misused, with an earthquake that serves no purpose except to underline an obvious plot turn. Granted, the overly complex storyline is almost impossible to follow, but in this instance, De Palma gotta assume the audience has an IQ of about 50. And unlike the shocking and painfully realistic nose-slitting stage in "Chinatown," the far worse violence inflicted on the Black Dahlia is amusingly fake. If De Palma was hoping to create a slasher flick, he failed badly.Nor does Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography escape a rap on the knuckles for a ridiculous lesbian stag movie (presumably made at a cost surpassing the combined budgets of all blue films produced from the 1920s to the 1950s), and a self-conscious and overly elaborate shot in which partners Blanchard (Eckhart) and Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) engage in a shootout, followed by the camera slowly rising up floor by floor of an whole apartment building, proceeding to a befuddling shot of the building's roof before it at last discovers the Black Dahlia's body in a vacant lot in the adjoining block. As visual storytelling, this is a grandiose and miserable failure. And then there's Fiona Shaw, who chews so much scenery that she gotta have been rushed to an oral surgeon to have the splinters removed.For that matter—and perhaps this is what makes the heart of the movie beat so faintly—there is very tiny of the Black Dahlia in "The Black Dahlia," who only surfaces far into the picture.In fact, the first 30 or 40 mins are devoted to boxing matches between the two detectives, nicknamed "Fire" and "Ice" from the Symbolism 101 school of writing. (I know it's in the book, but that's no excuse).So where is the Black Dahlia in this confusing mess? She exists entirely on film. Of course in true life, Elizabeth Short never got a screen use or even appeared in a school play, but De Palma gives her one and Kirshner, trying her greatest at the impossible task of acting 22, makes it as pitiful as possible with an intentionally miserable reading of Vivian Leigh's popular monologue from "Gone With the Wind." The handling of the crime scene? Ridiculous even by Hollywood's lax standards. Vintage black-and-white police vehicles swarming the roads and detectives bellowing instructions like some shark-jumping 1970s cop present that any nice investigator would already know. Ditto the morgue.Then there's the contrasting love/sex scenes, and it's obvious De Palma hasn't a clue how to scene either one. The sex scene, between Harnett and Johansson, occurs in the dining room, when, overcome with passion, Bleichert rips away the tablecloth, sending dishes everywhere, and has his method with Lake. Isham's score is lushly romantic, an oddly contrasting choice of music, and amour like this is sure tough on the Havilland china and the Baccarat crystal.The love scene, between Swank and Harnett, is just as amusing with Bleichert and Linscott having a tiny pillow talk while she's wearing nothing but large pearl earrings and a long matching necklace with pearls the size of tiny onions, ensuring, I would imagine, a rather bumpy ride.And about those crazy Linscotts. Bleichert knows exactly how to create rich folks confess to murder: Test their valuable antiques for goal practice. The last time I checked, police revolvers keep six rounds, so unless Bleichert was planning to war off one of them as he reloaded I can't imagine what he thought he would do after his sixth question. Then again, not everybody can send a crystal chandelier ruining to the floor with one shot—some of us need two.And while you're at it, Bucky, take out a couple of those clown paintings, please.


How many producers does it take to screw up a movie? In the situation of The Black Dahlia it takes 21 "producers". I counted the credits to be sure. I guess all 21 producers didn't notice how phony the flame bars were in the opening fire scene. The only producer with any true credits is Art Linson. Perhaps what this movie required was a single producer, director, writer squad that should focus on the story. And how about that acting? Johanson was miscast as was Swank (although Swank is generally a nice actress in another films). The plot is convoluted beyond anyones general idea of the Black Dahlia story. I was said that this movie was a true disappointment by my mates who saw it in a theatre, so I watched it on DVD and almost walked out of my own living room. On the positive side, the photography, production design and the melody were acceptable. But is it just me or does most of the dialog sound like clichés from another movie noir films? As others have pointed out this wanted to be L.A. Confidential or Chinatown, but came off as a terrible imitation. To terrible as I really wanted to love it...



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