THE STORY: Master storyteller Brian De Palma, known for such classic crime dramas as The Untouchables, Scarface and Carlito’s Way, as well as his suspense thrillers Carrie, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out, directs this adaptation of James Ellroy’s (L.A. Confidential, American Tabloid) best-selling crime novel.
The Black Dahlia weaves a fictionalized tale of obsession, love, corruption, greed and depravity around the true story of the brutal murder of a fledgling Hollywood starlet that shocked and fascinated the nation in 1947 and remains unsolved today. Two ex-pugilist cops, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), are called to investigate the homicide of ambitious silver-screen B-lister Betty Ann Short (Mia Kirshner) A.K.A. “The Black Dahlia”–an attack so grisly that images of the killing were kept from the public.
While Blanchard’s growing preoccupation with the sensational murder threatens his marriage to Kay (Scarlett Johansson), his partner Bleichert finds himself attracted to the enigmatic Madeleine Linscott (two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank), the daughter of one of the city’s most prominent families–who just happens to have an unsavory connection to the murder victim.
True crime meets urban legend when De Palma brings Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia to the big screen.
THE REVIEW: The Black Dahlia is a movie that is smart as it is beautiful. Filmmaker Brian De Palma has made a classy noir film that might appeal more to fans of those films—which I happen to consider myself one. Anyone that is familiar with James Ellroy books might find this film as they imagine. De Palma does an amazing job bringing the book to life—in spirit.
That doesn’t mean The Black Dahlia isn’t without miscues. The Black Dahlia often worries more about how it looks than it does on character development. Ellroy writes books that are character driven and The Black Dahlia isn’t that kind of movie. De Palma seems to have made the best looking B-movie ever—at least that’s how it looks from my cheap seats.
Then again there are a lot of fun B-movies and The Black Dahlia isn’t so bad that you figure it’ll only find a small legion of fans. There will be a further reach to this movie considering its stars. And its not that the stellar casts of Scarlette Johansson and Hilary Swank can’t carry a movie—it’s that they can’t carry a movie that doesn’t want to be carried. The problem is that the second part of the movie lags and neither the cast nor the twists can keep it moving along.
FRANKLY: The Black Dahlia seems to be a movie full of oddities. Even where the movie fails it still keeps you involved throughout. And when the movie slows you still wait in anticipation as you are taken around the many twists and turns. The Black Dahlia wins even when it loses.
+ Charlie Craine