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  Publicity Stills of "The Black Dahlia"
Courtesy of Shaw

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart & Mia Kirshner
RunTime: 2 hrs 1 min
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18 (Some Sexual Content)
Official Website: http://www.blackdahliamovie.com

Opening Day: 19 October 2006



Two ex-pugilist cops, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), are called to investigate the homicide of ambitious silver-screen B-lister Betty Ann Short (Mia Kirshner) A.K.A. "The Black Dahlia"--an attack so grisly that images of the killing were kept from the public.

Movie Review:

Inspired by one of 1940s most notorious unsolved murders in Los Angeles, The Black Dahlia is a screen adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel of the same name. The story revolves around the fictional characters of former professional boxers turned cops, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and his partner, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) as they investigate the brutal murder of a young aspiring actress, Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner). In search for the truth of her death, they become involved in a world of scandalous and dangerous revelations.

First off, don’t be misled by the trailers for this flick. If you think you’re going to watch a story about the murder of Elizabeth Short, think again. The majority of the story revolves around the tripod relationship between Bucky, Lee and his girlfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), rather than the murder case itself.

Secondly, don’t be misled by the promise of a star-studded cast. You will be disappointed if you’re expecting smart and modern film-noir classic quality, akin to award-winning L.A. Confidential (James Ellroy’s other crime novel turned movie). Uneven pacing aside, the plot has little suspense and was mostly messy and confusing. Many left the movie wondering what the heck was going on over the past 2.3 hours. Director Brian DePalma, whose previous works include Mission Impossible, chose to do away with many of the actual facts of the case and instead spends most of the film on Bucky’s life and his relationships with femme fatale, Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank) and questionable good girl, Kay.

While some of the actors over played their character, some just couldn’t seem to capture a good screen presence with theirs. Hilary Swank is believable but somehow her femme fatale depiction just doesn’t cut it as dangerously seductive. Scarlett Johansson’s performance was lackluster, and only manages to look consistently sexy in her red-rouged lips and vintage apparel. Josh Harnett does fairly well with his quiet charm and sober intensity but he may have been a bit too young for the role. Aaron Eckhart would have done better if he downplayed some of the theatrics. And lastly, Mia Kirshner is the only actor who had a strong impact with her subtle yet compelling delivery as the sad and careworn Elizabeth Short.

The only thing good about this movie is Dante Ferretti's beautifully designed 1940’s Hollywood set, and Vilmos Zsigmond's charming cinematography. Other than the look and feel, this movie fails to deliver a good screenplay and pace. As we switch from one scene to the next, the story becomes more complex and illogical with all the subplots going on, and just when you think you can’t keep up with it anymore, the filmmakers realize it is running out of time and somehow the final scenes magically and conveniently tie all the loose ends together at lightning speed. Rather than leave things an open puzzle, the clear-cut ending left an unsatisfying feeling after being puzzled by the numerous plotlines, some of which were unnecessary, for the most part of this overly long movie.

Unfortunately, this poor adaptation does not do the book justice, and what could have been a potential cult hit classic backfires and the end product is one disappointment of a multi-million dollar production.

Movie Rating:

(The Dahlia herself is just a back-story, so if you’re really looking for a good modern day film-noir masterpiece, go rent L.A. Confidential instead. Stick to reading the book if you really want to know about The Black Dahlia)

Review by Jolene Tan

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