The Black Dahlia - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Black Dahlia Reviews

Top Critic
Ben Walters
Time Out
September 23, 2006
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.
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Nathan Rabin
AV Club
September 23, 2006
The pairing of Ellroy and De Palma proves a marriage made in hardboiled heaven.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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David Denby
New Yorker
September 23, 2006
The picture is a kind of fattened goose that's been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It's overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying.
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
September 23, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2/4
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Andrew Sarris
New York Observer
September 20, 2006
Mr. De Palma and his collaborators have been unable to translate Mr. Ellroy's depth of feeling into cinematic equivalents.
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J. Hoberman
Village Voice
September 15, 2006
There are moments when The Black Dahlia projects a spectral world, but its ghosts in broad daylight are elusive at best.
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Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
September 15, 2006
The Black Dahlia feels wobbly and uncertain.
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Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
September 15, 2006
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.
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Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
September 15, 2006
In The Black Dahlia, narrative strands tangle and wither, and minor characters clutter the plot.
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
September 15, 2006
What it accomplishes with its stunning cinematography and set design is undercut by a lack of coherence.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Jeff Shannon
Seattle Times
September 15, 2006
Despite some weaknesses, The Black Dahlia remains curiously fascinating.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
September 15, 2006
With the exception of Aaron Eckhart, De Palma's actors can't live up to the period or the atmosphere.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
September 15, 2006
De Palma throws everything at the screen, but almost nothing sticks.
| Original Score: 2/4
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Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 15, 2006
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
Top Critic
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
September 15, 2006
The Black Dahlia is a NASCAR race all but ended by a spectacular wreck on the next-to-last lap.
| Original Score: 2/5
Top Critic
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
September 15, 2006
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.
| Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
September 15, 2006
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
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
September 15, 2006
Visually dazzling but ultimately disappointing.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
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Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
September 15, 2006
The convoluted plot would be exhausting even if it were believable. It isn't.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
September 15, 2006
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.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Carina Chocano
Los Angeles Times
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2.5/5
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Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle
September 15, 2006
Dahlia seethes with atmosphere, and Hollywood's underbelly is always worth an ogle.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Tom Long
Detroit News
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: D
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Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
September 15, 2006
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.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
David Germain
Associated Press
September 15, 2006
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
Top Critic
Michael Booth
Denver Post
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun-Times
September 15, 2006
Such a shame that The Black Dahlia collapses into a gruesome pile of steaming camp in the last half hour.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
September 15, 2006
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.
Top Critic
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
September 15, 2006
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 | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
September 14, 2006
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.
| Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
September 14, 2006
The Black Dahlia, set in the 1940s, exists to make L.A. Confidential look like God's gift to noir by comparison.
| Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
September 14, 2006
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 | Original Score: B
Top Critic
Dana Stevens
Slate
September 14, 2006
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.
Top Critic
Gene Seymour
Newsday
September 14, 2006
In reaching for tragic grandeur and psychological complexity, the movie takes on a lot of baggage that it can't quite carry.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
September 14, 2006
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.
Top Critic
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 14, 2006
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
Top Critic
Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
September 14, 2006
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.
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Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
September 14, 2006
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.
| Original Score: D
Top Critic
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
September 13, 2006
It's an old-fashioned noir made in the gallows-smirk spirit of L.A. Confidential.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
Top Critic
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
August 30, 2006
The second half feels heavy and unfulfilled, potential greatness reduced to a good movie plagued with problems.
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Variety
August 30, 2006
A literally ripping good yarn is undercut by some lackluster performances and late-inning overripe melodrama.