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The Black Dahlia (Widescreen Edition) (2006)

A movie directed by Brian De Palma

< read all 9 reviews

Loosely based on facts, but a good movie

  • Dec 19, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+3
Black Dahlia is a about the infamous murder case of the same name and a novel by best-selling author James Ellroy. The details of the mutilations involved in the murder and the name of the deceased are two of the few things that the film depicts accurately.

The film follows Detective Bleickhert (Hartnett) and his partner Blanchard (Eckhardt) as they obsess with the case and attempt to solve the murder, along with several other seemingly unrelated crimes. Plots are rarely DePalma's strong-suit, but this film's plot - had it either been simplified and streamlined or recast as a surrealist noir (think Blue Velvet) could have had great potential. As it stands, the film's script appropriately adopts a period-piece feel, but nonetheless permits a lot of noir atmosphere and convolutions to creep in. The characterization is strong and satisfying (and probably derived directly from Ellroy's original work), but the plot does devolves disappointingly late in the film (like several other DePalma pieces).

Aaron Eckhardt and Hilary Swank provide excellent support for Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johanson's leads. But Josh and Scarlett run into trouble as the story begins to derail after the midpoint of the narrative, and some of their later scenes are either poorly acted, poorly directed and cut, or all three. All three of these problems are well illustrated in one of the love scenes - and you'll know which one I mean if you see it.

Although set in the period of film noir, and with a plot as convoluted as the average pulp noir, the acting and script do not fit well within the noir catalog, nor within an identifiable historic/period setting. From the extras on the DVD, I understand and applaud what the film-makers were trying to do. I do, however, think that they should have decided on one way of telling the story and then stuck with it. It is hard to imagine the reasons for the creative decisions that went into the directing of the film. The camera-work is generally excellent, but there is a substantial amount of over-acting and mediocre editing and pacing.

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More The Black Dahlia reviews
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Film noir, by and large, was filmed in black and white (despite the prevalence of color film available during much of the period they were popular) and ran fewer than 120 minutes. For the former, it is easier to play with light and shadow in the limited grayscale palate of black and white film. For the latter it was often because the films were rushed into the can using as little money as possible—grit was bread or butter of the film noir oeuvre, so rehearsals and retakes were done as little …
review by . April 30, 2009
I believe there are two movie versions of this story. I am a lover of mysteries. I would say this was a "B" level movie. I would not walk out on it and it kept my interest up to a point. Would not pay $10 to see it but would watch it for free on TV.    I think the English to be the grand masters of mystery movies. They do no over do it and even with characters I have never heard of (Honeysuckle Weeks)  and low budgets they do it exceptionally well. Series like "Foyles War" …
review by . March 21, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Black Dahlia is an extremely disappointing movie. Adapted from the James Ellroy book of the same name, it uses a real life grisly murder in LA as the backdrop for what should have been a fine suspenseful, mystery.     Instead, this movie is one of the slowest and mind numbingly boring films I've seen in a long time. The plot not only unfolds at a glacial pace, but the connection between scenes makes it difficult for the viewer to easily follow what is going on. Yes, it's …
review by . November 01, 2008
This movie's not a simple guide   To Betty Short and how she died   They used the Dahlia as a base   And made this film around the case     The focus of the movie seems   To be the stuff Hollywood dreams   Wealth and power, politics   $ex and drugs and turning tricks     A tag team nicknamed Fire and Ice   Crime busters in the lair of vice   Ex-boxers, the force's best   Soon …
review by . June 29, 2007
Elizabeth Short's death was the sensational centerpiece that attracted viewer's attention but wow, it amazes me what people are saying about this film. I didn't know how to begin with this review and before writing this I read lots who have been misled by the title assuming that the Black Dahlia murder itself was to be the main focus, probably any true McEllroy and De Palma fans will tell you its not and was not ever the case. After viewing this I thought it wasn't bad and it caught my attention …
review by . February 19, 2007
The Black Dahlia was a famous murder of a young lady named Elizabeth Short, Betty, that occurred in Hollywood in the 1940s. The case remains unsolved, and spawned multiple books, one of which is the basis for this movie. The movie itself uses the murder and the ensuing investigation to explore multiple facets of LA society at that time; a corrupt LAPD, the criminal underworld, the rich and famous, the ultra-rich and secretive, and the various women who migrated to LA hoping for stardom but ending …
review by . January 23, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
The Black Dahlia is an extremely disappointing movie. Adapted from the James Ellroy book of the same name, it uses a real life grisly murder in LA as the backdrop for what should have been a fine suspenseful, mystery.    Instead, this movie is one of the slowest and mind numbingly boring films I've seen in a long time. The plot not only unfolds at a glacial pace, but the connection between scenes makes it difficult for the viewer to easily follow what is going on. Yes, it's supposed …
review by . December 29, 2006
Brian de Palma made an odd decision in creating this apparently very expensive, very strange and confusing version of a film, a movie less about the grisly/twisted unsolved murder (grossly illustrated ad infinitum here) of a wannabe 1940s actress of the title and more about two boxer cops (bland Josh Hartnett as 'Mr. Ice' and over the top Aaron Eckhart as 'Mr. Fire') and their bizarre ménage a trois with unfocused Scarlett Johansson. The film as written by Josh Friedman attempts to follow the novel …
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Hey everyone! Here's a little bit about me. I'm 25 and live in Kansas. I've lived here for almost 7 years now(wow, I can't believe it's been that long!) before moving here I lived in Tucson Arizona for … more
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The Black Dahliadrips withfilm noiratmospherics as it unspools a lurid and complicated story taken from James Ellroy's true-crime-inspired novel of the same name. Two boxers-turned-cops--Lee "Mr. Fire" Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart,Thank You For Smoking) and Bucky "Mr. Ice" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett,Black Hawk Down)--are morally tested as they pursue the killer of a young would-be actress, grappling with corruption, narcissism, stag films, and family madness along the way.L.A. Confidentialturned Ellroy's heated prose into a taut, compelling movie, butThe Black Dahliacollapses like a soggy meringue. Director Brian De Palma (who once made such vibrant, entertaining movies asCarrieandThe Untouchables) can't muster the energy to craft one of his trademark bravura action sequences and seems outright bored by the more mundane tasks of shaping performances and establishing mood. The actors flounder; Eckhart seems to be emoting for two, perhaps to compensate for Hartnett's bland lack of affect; even actresses as dependable as Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) and Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry) give clumsy, unconvincing performances. The one exception is an unsettling performance by Mia Kirshner (Exotica) as the doomed actress, seen only in perverse screen tests and stag films. The story is incomprehensible (and when you can follow it, it's silly); the dialogue is atrocious; the characters make hardly any sense from scene to scene. The movie...
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