The Black Dahlia
Director: Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Carlito's Way, Scarface)
Screenplay: Josh Friedman
Novel: James Ellroy
Producers: Rudy Cohen, Moshe Diamant, Art Linson
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 121 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

by Andrew James
     I'm not really sure where to begin. Partly because I'm not really sure where to end. The Black Dahlia was two hours of confusion, convolutedness and implausibility. The device and material should be simple enough, but director DePalma takes on a such a whirl-wind, round-a-bout way of getting to the bottom of the story, that I was simply exhausted and uncaring for the last 30 minutes or so.

      Dahlia is a neo-noir film re-make about a Hollywood starlet wannabe's brutal murder, and the investigation that follows in the mid 1940's. Eckhart and Hartnet play the lead detectives, Lee and Bucky respevtively, searching for clues to the murderer. Lee's live in lover, Kay, played by Scarlett Johansson in her worst and driest performance of her career, accepts Bucky into their house and the three live together warmly and comfortably. The boys go out and deal with thugs and criminals, then come home to Lee's homecooked meals or maybe out for a movie. Is Kay hiding something? Of course she is. Everyone in the movie is hiding something; be it a little something or a big something.

      As the story progresses, it becomes a who-dunnit film without any real suspects. We see characters come and go and easily forget their names or their role in the story. Names are mentioned constantly and I kept asking myself, "who is that again and why is he important?" Within the last 30 minutes, more new characters are introduced and added as suspects or conspirators. It's not right and it's and downright annoying.

      The film is flawed with ridiculous sub-plots and story-line that is nearly impossible to piece together. Within the first ten minutes, including a preposterous street riot and then a completely unnecessary and pointless boxing match that had nothing to do with the rest of the story, I knew the movie was going to fail me.

      The performances are all about average. I'm not a Hartnet fan, although he's grown on me in his last couple of efforts; especially Lucky Number Slevin. But he does his best in this lead detective role that he was very obviously miscast for. He's just too young still. Eckhart was great with a well done mix of camp and detective noir. Quite a change from his slick, witty portrayal in last spring's Thank You for Smoking. Everyone else was just there - save one. Hilary Swank plays a sexy, rich girl wanting to break into Hollywood as well. Her deep, slightly accented voice along with her over-the-top, graceful movements and mannerisms was really the brightest spot in the entire movie. She's always been great and here is no exception. She also turns up the hottie factor for once and shows that she truly is a very attractive woman.

      DePalma is very skilled at giving the audience something interesting to look at. On more than one occasion I made comments to my friend about a really cool shot or something marvelous to look at. The cinematography and art directors deserve to be commended for their work. But unfortunately, aside from some slightly interesting characters and the actors portraying them, there's not much else to be happy with in the viewing of this movie.

      DePalma's Scarface was known and even spoken out against for it's violence. Dahlia isn't much difference. There are some of the most brutal, blood-letting scenes I've ever witnessed. Not campy, fun violence like in a tenn horror flick, but truly sickening and gut-flinching. Be prepared for that. Horribly butchered cadavers, two harsh murders and a suicide that would give Kevorkian nightmares for weeks.

      Basically it's just nonsense. Unneeded plot devices, a story that lacks cohesion and side stories that make little sense or are even believable. Hollywood loves to put two movies out at basically the same time with a similar, if not identical, storyline and theme. Whether it be Truman Capote, world-ending asteroids, alien invaders or magicians with an agenda, each duo always has one that is superior. The Black Dahlia's counterpart is Hollywoodland. Another neo-noir film about a murder in Hollywood based off of a true story. A superior movie with a better storyline. See that instead; because although Dahlia takes place in Hollywoodland, it never should've een been made there.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for The Black Dahlia