The Black Dahlia


The Black Dahlia

Critics Consensus

Though this ambitious noir crime-drama captures the atmosphere of its era, it suffers from subpar performances, a convoluted story, and the inevitable comparisons to other, more successful films of its genre.



Reviews Counted: 191

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 97,673


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 2.6/5

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Movie Info

A tale of obsession, love, corruption, greed and depravity that revolves around a 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 and Bucky Bleichert, are called to investigate the homicide of ambitious silver-screen B-lister Betty Ann Short -- aka '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, his partner, Bleichert, finds himself attracted to the enigmatic Madeleine Linscott, the daughter of one of the city's most prominent families -- who just happens to have an unsavory connection to the murder victim.

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Josh Hartnett
as Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert
Aaron Eckhart
as Lee Blanchard
Hilary Swank
as Madeleine Linscott
Mia Kirshner
as Elizabeth Short
Mike Starr
as Det. Russ Millard
Fiona Shaw
as Ramona Linscott
Patrick Fischler
as Deputy DA Ellis Loew
James Otis
as Dolph Bleichert
John Kavanagh
as Emmett Linscott
Troy Evans
as Chief Ted Green
Anthony Russell
as Morrie Friedman
Pepe Serna
as Tomas Dos Santos
Angus MacInnes
as Capt. John Tierney
Rachel Miner
as Martha Linscott
Victor McGuire
as Sgt. Bill Koenig
Gregg Henry
as Pete Lukins
Jemima Rooper
as Lorna Mertz
Rose McGowan
as Sheryl Saddon
Mike O'Connell
as Shore Patrol
John Solari
as Baxter Fitch
Stephanie L. Moore
as Baxter Fitch's Girlfriend
Stephanie Moore
as Baxter Fitch's Girlfriend
Noel Arthur
as Gunman #1
Todd Thomas
as Gunman #2
Steve Eastin
as Detective
Ian McNeice
as Coroner
Claudia Katz
as Frolic Bartender
Mia Frye
as Laverne Bartender
Richard Brake
as Bobby DeWitt
Bill Finley
as George Tilden
Joost Scholte
as Madeleine's GI
Alan Teo
as Friedman Tough Guy
Kiril Efremov
as Friedman's Tough Guy #2
k.d. lang
as Love for Sale Singer in Laverne's
Brian DePalma
as Voice of Film Producer
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News & Interviews for The Black Dahlia

Critic Reviews for The Black Dahlia

All Critics (191) | Top Critics (44)

  • The pairing of Ellroy and De Palma proves a marriage made in hardboiled heaven.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

    Nathan Rabin

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Full Review…

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It only works in fits and starts and the grand climax is too Rocky Horror to be true, yet the heady redolence of a bygone era still proves seductive.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The picture is a kind of fattened goose that's been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It's overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying.

    Sep 23, 2006

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Mr. De Palma and his collaborators have been unable to translate Mr. Ellroy's depth of feeling into cinematic equivalents.

    Sep 20, 2006 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Black Dahlia

Based on James Ellroy's novel, that is in turn based on one of the most notorious unsolved murders of all time, this represents another step in Brian De Palma's increasing irrelevance. That's harsh, I know, but sadly it's true. This had potential to be good, and there's a great film to be made on this subject, but this isn't that film, and almost all of the potential is squandered. A major problem is that a lot of the time, the murder of wannabe actress Elizabeth Short takes a back seat to the story of the partnership between two detectives, and how the case (and other issues) are affecting them. It's plodding, meandering, and, while I'm okay with complex movies, this one is just too convoluted and messy for its own good. Not only that, but perhaps worst of all, you really don't care about the people or what happens. The film is populated by well known performers such as Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank, as well as wonderful character actor Mike Starr, but none of them really impress all that much. I do like how Eckhart, and especially Swank do these really pronounced "actor-y" accents, but they've all been far better elsewhere. Being De Palma, the film is shot well, with trademark camera moves, angles, and expressive lighting, but that's really the only highlight. The music is typical for period piece neo-noirs, but unfortunately just made me think more of the music from Chinatown than anything else. All in all, this is a real letdown. I like De Palma, or rather, I try to find enjoyment out of his place in film history, but it really bugs me that he's gone downhill, especially since I really don't know why.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The Black Dahlia was a film that I was really looking forward to seeing. Upon its release, I saw it, and was very, very disappointed in what I saw. This was a film that had so much potential and it was wasted. Brian DePalma has a solid cast of actors, yet his direction is sloppy. I thought that the films premise was good, but halfway through the film, everything falls apart, and the film just drags on, and becomes boring, unimpressive and dull. I think if the film would have been trimmed slightly in length, and the material reworked, The Black Dahlia could have been a stellar mystery film. Unfortunately, not even the excellent cast can save this boring film. The film had plenty of potential to being great, but instead it suffers from long, tired scenes of painful dialogue and the film's story just lingers and goes no where and when there's something that actually is interesting that happens, it's too little too late. The end result is a film that doesn't satisfy and really just disappoints. I thought this film was ultimately terrible, and is one of DePalma's worst efforts. The film could have been good, but DePalma's directing is unfocused and doesn't know where he wants to take the audience, therefore we're left in a boring trance trying to figure out really what is going on. Well, that's not hard to guess, there's nothing going on here, except a potentially great mystery thriller that has been wasted by a director past his prime. That's about it. The Black Dahlia is a boring, dull film and if you're looking for an excellent murder thriller, this film definitely isn't it. I think it's a shame that Brian DePalma wasted such a varied cast of talented actors and I think that if the film would have been directed by someone else, this film would have turned out quite differently. Avoid.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Despite this brilliant cast with equally brilliant performances, I could tell from the very start that I wouldn't like this film. It's far too wordy and I just couldn't understand what was going on. It was very difficult to follow and felt like it lasted an age.

Sophie Burgess
Sophie Burgess

Super Reviewer

First off, like so many others, I couldn't wait to see this film. I've been fascinated by the Black Dahlia case for many years, and I've mostly enjoyed Brian DePalma's movies. This may have been a faithful adaptation of James Ellroy's book, but I didn't like it, and much of doesn't deal with the Dahlia case anyway. This story revolves much more around "Mr. Fire" Blanchard's obsessions and ambition and how "Mr.Ice" Bleichert deals with Blanchard and Kay Lake (Johansson) while investigating Beth Short's murder. It contains a typically (from DePalma) convoluted plot and multiple storylines. I didn't care much for these characters, but the movie has its moments. I love Scarlet Johansson in anything, and Hillary Swank gives a good performance, a different character than I've seen her play. They're much better than the male leads. The perverted family of Madeline (Swank) is interesting, and Mia Kirsher as Beth Short was mesmerizing. As another reviewer observed, the lesbian bar scene is hilarious and memorable; the inclusion of kd Lang a great bonus. Overall the movie is bad in general but even worse due to my high expectations. This film is atmospheric but ultimately deteriorates into a campy, trampy mess.

Clintus Maximus
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer

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