The Black Dahlia Reviews
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.
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.
Whilst this was about the Elizebeth Shaw case, the investigation seemed to revolve more around the investigators.
I like the era, the costumes etc and Scarlett Johansson looked very much the part, but this film was so dull and the voiceover was more suited to a an old Private Eye style film.
Didn?t work for me.
For such a grade A cast the acting in Black Dahlia is below high school theater class level. I think this is the first time I can say that is 100% all around. Everyone sucked in this film. What's more is that the worst casting of the decade has to be Hillary Swank as the femme fatale who is the dark key to the whole thing. Oh yeah, she just won an Oscar. Who gives a shit if the role is right for her. What was De Palma thinking?
Of course Brian De Palma has accomplished nothing as a director in almost twenty years. His tombstone will read that here lies the guy that directed Scarface, that over rated, over produced film that turned Pacino into a screamer. De Palma keeps reaching for something and never quite grasps it.
So if you're into two hours of mess, try the Black Dahlia that throws every cliche known to man onto the screen. If you're expecting Zodiac, don't bother. Apparently a straight crime story isn't enough for De Palma and company.
Great cinematography though
First off, the direction is quite sloppy. Half the time, I didn't understand what on Earth was happening in the scenes. I got tired of the technical police terminology and the crazy name-dropping of criminals and whatnot. The antagonists are mentioned lightly as though I was supposed to know who they were or something. The script isn't very good, therefore; it tries to scan too many things without explaining any.
The plot develops around Betty Short's infamous murder. In real life, it hasn't been solved. This is a fictionalized version in which the mystery is solved by a detective named Bucky something. Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank are, um, love interests. Aaron Eckhart is his supercop partner. Mia Kirshner plays the melodramatic role of Betty Short. She's good at it.
Isn't this movie supposed to be about Betty Short? If not, don't name it The Black Dahlia! About 20% of an entire movie is actually about the Black Dahlia. The rest is just a story about this detective Bucky something and how many women he screws and mistakes he makes. I don't really care about Bucky. I was disappointed in that sense. What's worse, Aaron Eckhart leaves the story far too soon and I was left alone with Josh Hartnett... not necessarily my favorite actor.
Here's the deal. They name the movie The Black Dahlia, but when they actually show Elizabeth Short, she's either on a nude film, being horribly mutilated or actually dead and cut in half. A movie about The Black Dahlia would be better off actually being about the Black Dahlia. It would have been far more interesting, and Mia Kirshner could've been put to better use. Instead we get Hilary Swank in an incomprehensible role.
The Black Dahlia disappointed me a great deal, especially when I thought of what it could've been. Blame the source material or the screenwriter, it doesn't work.