Review of “The Black Dahlia” (2006) R 121min
April 1st, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 4,385 Views
A sophisticated film noir from the director of Scarface, The Untouchables, Casualties Of War, Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes, Mission To Mars and Redacted – Brian De Palma. It’s based on James Ellroy’s Novel “The Black Dahlia” inspired by the real murder of Elizabeth Short.
The plot: 1946. Hollywood. Two cops-partners, former boxers Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) are promoted to homicide detectives. Bucky becomes a close friend of Lee and his girlfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), forming a love triangle. When the corpse of the aspirant actress Elizabeth Short is found mutilated (as in Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs), Lee becomes obsessed to solve the case called by the press Black Dahlia. Meanwhile, Bucky’s investigation leads him to a Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), the daughter of a powerful and wealthy constructor that resembles the Black Dahlia. In a environment of corruption and lies, Bucky discloses hidden truth.
The good: Overall this movie is well executed. Acting by the main and supporting actors, the photography and camera work with low angles, music (especially trumpet), sets and costumes are most professional. Unpredictable and sophisticated plot with complex characters. Unusually dramatic and hard role for Josh Hartnett, whom I don’t like, but he did well in this movie, but it was hard to care for him or any other character. Beautiful, dazzling images. The movie was shot in Bulgaria, where set designers rebuilt entire Hollywoodland, Hollywood boulevard, LA PD interior and more.
The bad: it’s long, messy and a rather hard to follow: so many sub-plots and backstories! I did not like narration. All the plot threads were resolved in the end by narration. In this movie I see a lot of influence of David Lynch and Hitchcock, but Brian De Palma is not skilled enough to match them. The facts were completely invented (I’m not an expert on the case and I didn’t read the novel either, but I did some research on Wikipedia). Scarlett Johansen looked awesome, but didn’t act to her full strength. We don’t even see Dahlia until almost 45 minutes into the movie. Hillary Swank was not a believable femme fatale.
DVD Bonus Features:
- Reality and Fiction: The Story of The Black Dahlia – commentary by film makers and novel’s author James Ellroy, with some documentary footage and photos. 11 minutes.
- The Case File – behind the scenes look at making The Black Dahlia. Interviews with creators, where they tell how everyone else was great. 20 minutes.
- The De Palma Touch (Presented by Volkswagen) – creators talk about De Palma’s visual style. 16 minutes.
Similar movies: L.A. Confidential, Chinatown.
Cast: Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert – Josh Hartnett | Kay Lake – Scarlett Johansson | Lee Blanchard – Aaron Eckhart | Madeleine Linscott – Hilary Swank | Elizabeth Short – Mia Kirshner | Morrie Friedman – Anthony Russell | Director – Brian De Palma | Writer – Josh Friedman | Music – Mark Isham | Cinematography – Vilmos Zsigmond | Universal Pictures
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