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The Black Dahlia Reviews

Ben Walters
Time Out
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Ellroy's prose crawls into characters' secret hearts and under the reader's skin, but its foetid horrors become kitschy here, the script too streamlined and the lead performances too shallow to dredge the story's depths.

Full Review Source: Time Out

September 23, 2006
David Denby
New Yorker
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The picture is a kind of fattened goose that's been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It's overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying.

September 23, 2006

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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September 23, 2006
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
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This is far from one of the director's better efforts and should be avoided by all those who are not sworn De Palma boosters.

Full Review Source: ReelViews | Original Score: 2/4

September 23, 2006

Ebert & Roeper
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September 21, 2006
Andrew Sarris
New York Observer
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Mr. De Palma and his collaborators have been unable to translate Mr. Ellroy's depth of feeling into cinematic equivalents.

Full Review Source: New York Observer

September 20, 2006
J. Hoberman
Village Voice
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There are moments when The Black Dahlia projects a spectral world, but its ghosts in broad daylight are elusive at best.

Full Review Source: Village Voice

September 15, 2006
Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
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The Black Dahlia feels wobbly and uncertain.

Full Review Source: Salon.com

September 15, 2006
Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
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Despite genius-level contributions from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and art director Dante Ferretti, the handsome film is almost abusively murky, trafficking in difficult-to-follow plot manipulations, arbitrary twists and mumbled dialogue.

Full Review Source: Washington Post

September 15, 2006
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
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In The Black Dahlia, narrative strands tangle and wither, and minor characters clutter the plot.

Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal

September 15, 2006
Claudia Puig
USA Today
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What it accomplishes with its stunning cinematography and set design is undercut by a lack of coherence.

Full Review Source: USA Today | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
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Black Dahlia wilts from a surfeit of incident and a shortage of credibility, owing to a script by Josh Friedman that eventually turns to soap and performances that approach the hilarity of a Guy Maddin melodrama.

Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Jeff Shannon
Seattle Times
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Despite some weaknesses, The Black Dahlia remains curiously fascinating.

Full Review Source: Seattle Times | Original Score: 2.5/4

September 15, 2006
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
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With the exception of Aaron Eckhart, De Palma's actors can't live up to the period or the atmosphere.

Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
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De Palma throws everything at the screen, but almost nothing sticks.

| Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Josh Friedman's screenplay doesn't so much distill the flavor of James Ellroy's hard-boiled writing as serve up indigestible chunks of verbiage.

| Original Score: 2.5/4

September 15, 2006
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
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The Black Dahlia is a NASCAR race all but ended by a spectacular wreck on the next-to-last lap.

Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel | Original Score: 2/5

September 15, 2006
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
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A wrongheaded collaboration between two opposites that has too little of James Ellroy's mad passion and too much of Brian De Palma's irresponsible style.

Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger | Original Score: 1.5/4

September 15, 2006
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
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Brian De Palma drains the life out of James Ellroy's take on the spectacularly cruel 1947 murder of a young Los Angeles woman known as the Black Dahlia.

| Original Score: 2/5

September 15, 2006
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
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Visually dazzling but ultimately disappointing.

| Original Score: 2.5/4

September 15, 2006
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
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The convoluted plot would be exhausting even if it were believable. It isn't.

Full Review Source: New York Daily News | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
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Brian De Palma spent three years struggling to get The Black Dahlia made, which helps explain why the movie has the feel of something that was left in the oven too long: It's both overcooked and undernourishing.

Full Review Source: Miami Herald | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Carina Chocano
Los Angeles Times
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Despite some amusing distractions, watching the big picture coalesce is not unlike watching someone complete a jigsaw puzzle. It all comes together eventually, but you already saw the image on the box.

Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times | Original Score: 2.5/5

September 15, 2006
Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle
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Dahlia seethes with atmosphere, and Hollywood's underbelly is always worth an ogle.

Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle | Original Score: 2.5/4

September 15, 2006
Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
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No wonder The Black Dahlia has the suffocated tint of a face starved for oxygen -- this isn't film noir, it's film bleu.

Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Tom Long
Detroit News
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If you like any of the lead actors, don't go see this movie. If you like good movies, don't go see this movie. If you're a steady customer at Helga's House of Pain, this one's for you.

Full Review Source: Detroit News | Original Score: D

September 15, 2006
Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
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It's easier to navigate the highway system of modern L.A. than keep track of the ever-shifting tone and direction of The Black Dahlia, and the cast appears at least as perplexed as we are.

Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
David Germain
Associated Press
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This fictionalized tale of two Los Angeles detectives assigned to the gruesome 1940s murder of a real-life wannabe starlet begins as a slow but intriguing character study that gradually unravels into a turgid mess.

| Original Score: C

September 15, 2006
Michael Booth
Denver Post
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The zoot suits and fedoras look great, but without a script or hard-eyed private detective in sight, it's merely a production designer's exercise.

Full Review Source: Denver Post | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
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Such a heinous crime would seem ideal for the man who gave us Scarface, but Mr. De Palma uses the murder as a springboard for pretentious social commentary and garish exercises in camp.

Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News | Original Score: C+

September 15, 2006
Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun-Times
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Such a shame that The Black Dahlia collapses into a gruesome pile of steaming camp in the last half hour.

Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Original Score: 2.5/4

September 15, 2006
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
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Director Brian De Palma will probably take the rap for this tepid noir, but the real culprits are Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson, red-hot lovers in life but (as ever) gorgeous stiffs on-screen.

Full Review Source: Chicago Reader

September 15, 2006
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
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Since The Black Dahlia more or less tells the story of an actress, a heinously murdered one at that, it makes sense that the first thing you notice about this so-so adaptation of James Ellroy's novel is the shoddy acting.

Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Original Score: 2/4

September 15, 2006
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
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The best you can say about The Black Dahlia: For people who like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing they will like.

Full Review Source: Arizona Republic | Original Score: 3.5/5

September 14, 2006
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
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The Black Dahlia, set in the 1940s, exists to make L.A. Confidential look like God's gift to noir by comparison.

Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune | Original Score: 1.5/4

September 14, 2006
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
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There are some virtuoso moments (the discovery of the mutilated corpse is extremely well done and blessedly ungraphic), but overall the result is much less than prime De Palma.

Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Original Score: B

September 14, 2006
Dana Stevens
Slate
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There's more moral weight in one paragraph of James Ellroy's somber 1987 novel The Black Dahlia than in all 121 minutes of Brian De Palma's florid, sprawling, self-satisfied film version.

Full Review Source: Slate

September 14, 2006
Gene Seymour
Newsday
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In reaching for tragic grandeur and psychological complexity, the movie takes on a lot of baggage that it can't quite carry.

Full Review Source: Newsday | Original Score: 2/4

September 14, 2006
David Edelstein
New York Magazine
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The Black Dahlia is an essay in incoherence. The confusion wouldn't matter if there were any feeling onscreen, but the blood and innards seem missing from the movie, too.

Full Review Source: New York Magazine

September 14, 2006
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Brian De Palma's film honors Ellroy's grim prose but can't accommodate his byzantine plot. What seems rich and intricate on the page is tangled and impenetrable onscreen.

| Original Score: 2.5/4

September 14, 2006
Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
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Swank's character and her performance are good enough to merit a movie of their own, instead of serving as fourth wheel to this lifeless ménage à trois.

Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly

September 14, 2006
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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As the plot becomes more convoluted, the tone more overripe and the performances heedlessly over-the-top, the picture digs its own film noir grave -- all look and no substance.

Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Original Score: D

September 14, 2006
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
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It's an old-fashioned noir made in the gallows-smirk spirit of L.A. Confidential.

Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Original Score: B-

September 13, 2006
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
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The second half feels heavy and unfulfilled, potential greatness reduced to a good movie plagued with problems.

August 30, 2006
Todd McCarthy
Variety
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A literally ripping good yarn is undercut by some lackluster performances and late-inning overripe melodrama.

Full Review Source: Variety

August 30, 2006
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