The Black Dahlia (2006)

black dahlia poster 2006 movie
3.0 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 8/10

Looks good

Poor story and acting all over the place

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Black Dahlia

Studio:   Millennium Films

Genre(s):   Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  September 15, 2006

MPAA Rating:   R

black dahlia josh hartnett aaron eckhart murder scene

I’m sure we’ll have a satisfactory result to a real-life unsolved murder

Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) were teamed for an exposition fight for the LAPD and become fast friends and partners.  They share their friendship with Lee’s love Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), but things begin to change when Bucky and Lee are called in on the high profile murder case of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner).  Lee becomes obsessed with finding the killer and Bucky is driven closer to Kay while finding himself in a romance with a woman named Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank) who is involved in the Short case…the danger is growing surrounding the case, and Bucky finds he might be forced to uncover the truth alone!

Directed by Brian De Palma, The Black Dahlia is a mystery-suspense thriller based around the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short.  The film was based on the 1987 James Ellroy crime novel and was in development for decades.  Critically panned and with a poor box-office return, the film did receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

black dahlia josh hartnett aaron eckhart scarlett johnsson

I’m sure this will work out…

I was pretty pumped about The Black Dahlia when it was released.  I like true crime and had read about the Black Dahlia murder, and I also like Brian De Palma.  When I finally saw The Black Dahlia, I was immensely disappointed and reminded that De Palma does have some monumental failures…and The Black Dahlia is added to that list.

The movie’s plot is a mess.  It allegedly was hacked to pieces by the editors, and David Fincher (who was originally attached to direct) got out of it because he saw it coming.  In addition to this, the fictionalized case surrounding the real crime doesn’t seem to live up to the true crime.  The last thirty minutes of the already bloated film just has revelation after revelation with Bucky putting the pieces together.  It stops being clever and starts just being silly.

Added to the plot problems is a real broad spectrum of acting.  You have the leads Aaron Eckhart and John Hartnett in a serious police procedural film while Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, and even the small cameo by Rose McGowan feels like they are acting in a different style of movie in their delivery.  This is combined with some over the top acting in roles (especially by the disturbed Ramona Linscott played by Fiona Shaw…who seems like she’s in a comedy).  It just adds to why the movie flopped.

black dahlia madeleine linscott bucky bleichert josh hartnett hilary swank

I’m not sure what’s going on anymore and I’m not sure I care…

Visually the movie is quite good and De Palma rarely fails in this retrospect.  The 1940s Los Angeles scene is displayed and presented in a nice look, and it does conjure up images of old Hollywood.  The use of films within the movie also adds to this, and the noire style of the film fits in with the films of the period.

The Black Dahlia was a huge disappointment.  It was a movie that should have been good by definition but ended up being a bloated bore.  The smooth look of the film can cover the inadequacies of the movie and possibly make it worse by reminding you of the film’s potential.  Skip The Black Dahlia and watch something like L.A. Confidential instead.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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