19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pay attention and be impressed
I rented this film and then before I watched it I saw the review ratings, and absolutely dreaded the thought of wasting two hours on this film. I therefore ignored the film for a day and I have just watched it. By the four stars I have given I can conclude that this film is actually pretty good.
At no moment in the film did I lose interest and the story,...
Published on 24 Feb 2007 by Kit
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylistically beautful, but narratively just too confusing, and what's with Hilary Swank's accent??
Brian De Palmer in one of the most visually stunning, but structurally disappointing movies of the year has tried to breathe some noir life into the legend of The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short and her grusome murder. In January 1947, her mutilated body was found, drained of blood, disemboweled and severed at the waist, in an empty Los Angeles lot.
Published on 24 Dec 2006
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylistically beautful, but narratively just too confusing, and what's with Hilary Swank's accent??,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)Brian De Palmer in one of the most visually stunning, but structurally disappointing movies of the year has tried to breathe some noir life into the legend of The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short and her grusome murder. In January 1947, her mutilated body was found, drained of blood, disemboweled and severed at the waist, in an empty Los Angeles lot.
Nicknamed the Black Dahlia, her murderer was never found and no one ever confessed to the crime. In Adapting James Ellroy's dark fictional take on Short's murder, De Palmer centers his film around the relationship between boxing rivals turned LAPD partners Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), each increasingly obsessed with the case after they are assigned to the investigation.
The problem is that Bucky is also becoming fixated on Lee's gorgeous girlfiend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). Each has troubling secrets. Lee, high Benzedrine, steadily grows obsessed over the Black Dahlia, driven to know everything about her and horrified that this poor girl met with such a gruesome end. Consequently, his relationship with Kay begins to suffer and he becomes ever more detached from his work and from Bucky.
Bucky, too, is drawn to Elizabeth's fatal charm, especially when his investigation takes him to Hollywood lesbian bars and brings him under the sway of the bisexual femme fatale Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), whose father owns half of Hollywood and is the richest developer in the city. Bucky is sure that Madeleine and her eccentic family are somehow connected to the fate of the Black Dahlia.
The film is packed with secondary characters, hard to figure subplots and loopy plot twists that all come on fast and thick. It is with the introduction of the Linscott family, though, that the story seems to become too over-the-top and far fetched. Daddy Linscott routinely tells Bucky of a connection to the Dahlia that is so opaque that it is easily missed, whilst Madelaine's pill-popping mother Ramona (an eye-rolling, film-stealing Fiona Shaw) may know more about the Dahlia than she's letting on.
There's no doubt that De Palma has fashioned a visually stunning and stylish film, utilizing light and shade. The sets and locations have a showy glamour - it's a handsomely mounted spectacle and the actual recreation of 1940's Los Angeles is astounding. In classic film noir fashion, a smoky miasma seems to saturate much of the atmosphere but unfortunately; a narrative haze obscures much of the story.
So many scenes don't connect well, long parts of the narrative are disjointed, all over the place and often thrown in for no good reason - in one scene there's even an earthquake! There's also an overlong twenty-minute superfluous preamble at the beginning of the film that explains how Bucky and Lee meet through a boxing tournament, long before Short's body is even discovered.
The acting generally passable, if a bit bland. Hartnett delivers an intriguing mix of tenderness, self-righteousness and self-incrimination, but his screen presence is rather ordinary. Eckhart looks fantastic and plays his scenes well, yet when he's high on benzadrine, he comes across as a little too over the top. Johansson looks gorgeous of course, yet she's also somewhat featurless.
Leave it to Hilary Swank - who complete with sporting a really weird accent - really steals the entire film as the wealthy black widow Madelaine. She goes in for such unrestrained sexuality and a type of machievellian intensity, that she makes the actual Dahlia - Mia Kirshner seen in black and white screen tests - seem almost demure by comparison.
The critics were right. With all its visual grace and sumptuous set pieces, The Black Dahlia is a major disappointment and a bit if a dud, especially when you consider that the movie could have been really good. Everything just feels a tad too self-conscious, and artificially mannered and over-heated, as though De Palma is just can't quite find the right tone - he's just trying too hard to get it all right. Mike Leonard December 06.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pay attention and be impressed,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)I rented this film and then before I watched it I saw the review ratings, and absolutely dreaded the thought of wasting two hours on this film. I therefore ignored the film for a day and I have just watched it. By the four stars I have given I can conclude that this film is actually pretty good.
At no moment in the film did I lose interest and the story, directing and characters were engaging and the plot was interesting and at some points genuinely chilling and dramatic. It was a
film that I therefore enjoyed. I think the setting and flair of the film is very much in the mould of LA Confidential and Chinatown.
I could not give the film five stars because the film really is quite difficult to follow at times. My advice to anyone intending to watch the film is this is a really good film but pay attention and try to remember the names of the characters. It is extremely difficult to follow the plot precisely and I think a second viewing would be helpful, but in the end the story fits nicely, and even if you don't quite follow what is going on the directing, music and acting is nevertheless compelling.
I think that a different reason why the film has received bad reviews on this site is because the film is based on a book, and normally a person who has experienced one form of media on the story ends up disliking the new media. I have not read the book and I won't because of the above reasoning, but I think that for anyone who has not read the book I really can't see how if with a little attention this film cannot impress.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Black Dahlia,
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This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)Black Dahlia
This is the fictionalised story by James Elroy is of the real Black Dahlia murder of 1947,a crime which is officially unsolved, inspite of several good books that suggest who did it.
This film is interesting on many levels, the sets, the locations and the vehicles along with the clothing is just like you were back in 1947. Details such as a faded peeling painted sign on a pet store looks perfect.
The screenplay has many twists and turns, I feel it should have had more of a direction from a Detective's eye view of the crime they were trying to solve, but that is only a small point and those who have not done that type of job will not really consider that perspective. James Ellroy has never been a Police Officer, but he writes good Police inspired works. He has and shows great knowledge of the job without actually having done it!
(James Ellroy's mother's murder from around the same era has driven him to investigate that for himself for many years, indeed that has been his 'Bette Noir' so to speak, his own driving force to find the truth, as with Betty Short's murder, others have had the same obsessive journey to find the truth. Indeed, some think that Ellroy's mother, Betty Short and a number of other unsolved cases are linked.)
Brian DePalma again scores with a great film, the main 4 charachters are well chosen and Hilary Swank plays a great manipulative seducer who 'walks both sides of the same street' - watch the film to see what I mean.
Scarlett Johansen plays a fragile beauty with a past that has been damaged, hidden and abusive . Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart play the tough 'Fire and Ice' Police Detectives to the hilt. A pre- Dirty Harry era duo in some cases.
You certainly don't want to take your eye off the ball for long in this film as there are lots of undercurrents and interplays between the charachters going on here, you really do have to watch the film to ensure you don't miss them.
I watched all the special features items on the DVD first which was a help in seeing what the team was trying to achieve often before a camera had rolled.
To return to the central charachter, Elizabeth Ann Short, 'Betty Short' - the Real Black Dahlia, the back story of Short with other aspiring actresses in the film is a theme that weaves through the screenplay.
One point I did feel was not through and only from a professional point of view is that when Bucky Bleichert is searching a woman's room, he only seemed to do it a cursory way - the handbag he looked through should have been tipped right out and the letters in it taken as evidence and actually read by someone as they may have contained useful information, rather than what I would call a cursory rummage, or maybe that was supposed to be the way it was intended or written.
Even with these minor discrepancies, no doubt I would watch the film again as it is well acted and the sets and visual feast of the 1940's era is so well done. This film does deserve its place in the Film Noir category for those reasons.
4.0 out of 5 stars show me some bodies,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)It took two attempts till I eventually arrived at the end. The film can be a noir tour de force with its impressive sets, cinematography and attention to detail....but.
As a history lesson it has some big interest; America, freshly risen post war, is busily inventing its history in the small studios growing around Los Angeles. Girls flocking to the gold, rush from small town States, easy prey for the rich man who twiddles the knobs to control the access to the celluloid dreams. Mind strippers - as the film highlights how pornography was invented along with the camera.
The dialogue is mumbled, similar to The Killer inside Me. It requires close concentration to get the nuances within the various sub plots. It took two attempts, as this is a complex film. Even after two goes I am not entirely sure what was taking place. If you want a quick fix and a stare away from reality, then look elsewhere, you won't find it here.
This "crime" film is aimed fair and square at the psychopathology "power," and is perhaps a little too deep for the average crime buff who just wants escapism. Is that not interesting people want to escape into murder? Read these reviews, they are very telling about the average mind set that watches this stuff.
The plot centres on a love triangle, emerging as a battle between two men, an understated man on man relationship, involving a beautiful woman, who has a less than salubrious past. One has a drug problem and is haunted by the disappearance of his 15 year old sister, the other is his shadow.The woman loves both of them. They love the manliness in each other. Then there is the murder.
Forced into a lesbian sex film, the actress appears in bleak noir trailers, detailing her desires as she seeks fame and fortune in these dreary dreamworlds. The super rich, made good through dubious land deals, are eccentric and ridden with family vice. Then the whole sumptuous cast whisk around each other, as the myriad sub plots, all based on subterfuge, deceit power and sex, finally enmesh. This is the complexity that requires concentration and turns off the average intelligence.
The film aims to provide a finale to them all, but does not. Sex working dominates the film, in all varieties, the currency of the era; a vicious nasty world. The art deco worlds exude money, painstakingly recreated, a type of lush Poirot, composed of sleek cars, sharp suits and platinum blondes armed with bright red lipstick. Meanwhile a trumpet weaves its sound magic throughout. Not a film that moved me with any particular emotion; this is where I felt it fell in portraying the human misery behind the candyfloss and gloss, projected onto the outer screen.
It does travels behind the scenery to show where the dead bodies are laid but it is emotionally flat. It does however depict a violent grisly corrupt world, just like the one that made it.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confused , disjointed film,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)"The Black Dahlia" was a major disppointment for me. Although the film looks stylish and is well directed, it is let down by a jumbled up, stretched out and mostly incoherent plot. The acting wasn't the greatest either and I failed to empathise with any of the characters or care what happened to them. The plot is about the grisly murder of a minor actress, the eponymous "Black Dahlia", but most of the film focuses on boxing matches, passionate flings ,a triangular relationship and a few other sub plots rather than building up suspense and solving the murder. One of the most forgettable films I have watched recently.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous But Not Gripping,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)Okay, so Brian De Palma seems satisfied with his movie: he's glad that it's true to the source book and mirrors its "mosaic, non-linear" style; he's glad that it's not an overly viewer-friendly movie, as with some pride he pronounces it to be "a little more to digest than your average episode of CSI". What's more, the author of the source novel, James Ellroy, seems to be satisfied with the adaptation, too. The writer admits De Palma's take on the story "captures the violence and the elements of power", and then he goes on to praise the actors - especially Mia Kirshner and Josh Hartnett. But is The Black Dahlia as good as we all hoped? Or more precisely - is it as good as another adaptation of Ellroy's book, the famous L.A. Confidential?
The short answer would be: hell no. It's not as gripping as L.A. Confidential and it doesn't have all these interesting, meaty characters. The Black Dahlia may be prettier than L.A. Confidential - it may be the year's prettiest movie, actually - but beauty is not all, not even if talk a De Palma film. In the past the director might have been successful in making some films that had the looks but didn't seem to have the brains, but they were either fruit of De Palma's love for the gratuitous B-movie style or proofs for his artistic independence - wild, unashamed pieces that he wrote and directed, putting all his love and energy in them. The Black Dahlia, on the other hand, is an uneasy compromise. De Palma decided to hide his style behind Ellroy's story - and it perhaps could have worked fine, had the story been a little more interesting and fresher than it is.
The plot of The Black Dahlia doesn't hold many surprises for the viewer, and that's perhaps its greatest flaw. We're in Los Angeles, in the perfectly recreated 1940s, and we observe two handsome detectives, "Bucky" (Hartnett) and "Lee" (Eckhart), who investigate a brutal and puzzling murder of a young actress. They cover each other's back when there's some shooting involved, they watch the films and auditions the deceased has recorded, and they are in love with the same girl - the sexy and provocative but also sensitive and somewhat helpless Kay Lake (Johansson)... And here the problems begin. The love triangle - not much connected to the murder mystery - is much more interesting than the police investigation; the competition between the two detectives is, in fact, the heart of the movie, and whenever the plot steers away from this in favour of picking up the unclear hints and clues as to who killed the girl - our interest wanes. The Black Dahlia struggles to be a murder mystery but the murder itself is the least interesting thing in it. And it doesn't help that De Palma decided to abandon his trademark approach to filming violence (think the baseball bat scene in The Untouchables): what we get of it in The Black Dahlia seems restrained, saturated. Some viewers will be glad to know that the director did his best not to treat violence gratuitously this time around but, and I'm really sorry to announce this, it doesn't work well for The Black Dahlia's impact on the viewers.
By no means, however, is The Black Dahlia a bad or even an average film. Several scenes are wonderful reminders of De Palma's visual genius (the boxing scene, the suspense before the shootout), the photography is mesmerising throughout, and the actors shine in a handsome, old-fashioned way (and not just Hartnett and Kirschner but also Eckhart who is convincingly wild in his role, Johansson who is unbearably sexy, and Swank - weird yet definitely attractive). If only the script were more surprising and the final revelation more shattering, The Black Dahlia could knock L.A. Confidential dead - but that's asking a lot, is it not?
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars [3.5]--"She was always in the middle, but never between us....,",,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)Elizabeth Short's death was the sensational centerpiece that attracted viewer's attention but wow, it amazes me what people are saying about this film. I didn't know how to begin with this review and before writing this I read lots who have been misled by the title assuming that the Black Dahlia murder itself was to be the main focus, probably any true McEllroy and De Palma fans will tell you its not and was not ever the case. After viewing this I thought it wasn't bad and it caught my attention rather well. The plot of course centers on LAPD Officers Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichart( Josh Harnett) and Leland 'Lee' Blanchard( Aaron Eckhart) aka Mr.Ice and Mr.Fire respectively due to their boxing skills and the tale is told by Bucky ( in voice-overs) The film's backdrop is the horrific and now infamous murder rising star Elizabeth'Beth'Shortt ( Mia Kershner) aka 'The Black Dahlia'. Our two protagonists are called in to investigate the crime which was so horrible that all the details were kept from the public. While Lee and Bucky go all out to solve the heinous crime each is also dealing with his personal issues. Lee's growing obsession with the case threatens his relationship with his girlfriend Kay (Scarlett Johanssen). Added to the strain is the eminent release of Bobby De Witt whom Lee had previously put behind bars for numerous crimes including some close to home. Bucky meanwhile finds himself entwined in a love-affair with wealthy if rebellious Madeline Linscott (Hilary Swank) who bears an uncanny resemblance to Beth Shortt.
In this day and age, classic film-noir style walks the very fine line of parody and sincerity. And "Dahlia" went back and forth. The entire cast, really, handled the somewhat archaic style of acting without making it seem too goofy. I have to give special mention to Fiona Shaw who gave an over the top performance as Ramona Linscott. Every moment she was on screen you couldn't help but to listen to her because some of the things she would say or how she says it was amazing. Aaron Eckhart's pitiful obsessed yet tragic portrayal of Blanchard whose dedication to the case proves his undoing. Josh Harnett is on top form as the narrator Bucky and portrays Bucky's struggles and angst perfectly. One of his best traits is being able to read his facial features. Through Hartnett's expressions, one can almost read his mind to foreshadow events before he does. Scarlett Johanssen is currently the sweetheart of Hollywood and it's easy to see why. She plays the old beauty 40s sirens pretty well but at times I would hear her switch on and off her accent to the point I was hoping that it remain consistent. Her role is both headstrong and lost through out the film. Hilary Swank done her role fairly well and at times looks awkward in certain scenes. Mia Kershner as the doomed `Dahlia' played her role nicely and convincing enough in this story.
Shadows- is part of De Palma's main focus of this film and you'll see why. Along with side plots and twists also keep a viewer on their toes. Base on the interview that I have seen on this disc, De Palma did stated that he kept faithful to McEllroy's excellent novel while also giving the story an energy and intense emotional drive that can only be given on screen. This film might be a big disappointment to a lot of viewers but remember that the 'Dahlia 'herself is not the main focus of the film, since it says on Ellroy's book it was not focused solely on her. Rather she is the catalyst for the all the events following the murder. Just keep an open mind and rather than being put off by the focus of the story think it through logically and you won't have a problem understanding anything. I recommend this to De Palma's entire fan base and to those who are curios of this man work.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment.,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)Murders are messy on the screen and in real life; screenplays about them can be chaotic and disjointed also. Such is the case with Black Dahlia, a film noir from Brian De Palma, a past master of the macabre and the complicated (Blow Out, Body Double). It has all the trappings of a first-rate detective novel (James Ellroy) made into a 1940's thriller with appropriately moody music of the soulful trumpet (Mark Isham), lush production design (Dante Ferretti), and equally impressive costuming (Jenny Beavan), all set in a timelessly seedy Los Angeles.
There's also the conflicted, sometimes dark hero detective (Josh Hartnett) and the sexy, dangerous femme fatale (Hilary Swank), accompanied by the questionably good voluptuary sex bomb (Scarlett Johansson). As if these noir troublemakers were not enough, writer Josh Friedman seemingly adapts Ellroy's every subplot, every story thread, as if each had to be accounted for in the best CSI tradition.
The original novel was based on aspiring actress Elizabeth Short's unsolved grizzly murder in 1947. After a considerably convoluted exposition, with plot lines rarely intersecting in a unified way, the film has the nerve to offer one of the most extensive denouements in film history, could be a half hour, with lengthy explanation of how all those ends tied together. Needless to say, anti climaxes abound in this last segment, leaving not only more confusion about the plot but also a desire to get back to The Big Sleep without sleeping, a state Black Dahlia threatened several times.
Hartnett's detective says, "Nothing stays buried forever. Nothing." I say this weak noir wannabe should stay buried until a bright 22nd century scholar sees its cultural and aesthetic significance. Until then, it's a jumble of plot points resolved in the end by tedious narration. Even Scarlett Johansson's pulchritude couldn't win me, and that's murder in the first degree.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, confusing, brutal, showing abyss of the human soul and strangely fascinating,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)This is much more than a mere mystery. It is dark, often very confusing as one does not seem to understand what the hell is going on, it shows the abyss of the human soul, partly extremely brutal and - nearly against one's own better judgement - utterly fascinating. It might be not a nice story but it it is nicely filmed, artly in itself, great pictures which one like to keep as paintings. I enjoyed it very much, but I suppose it is not a movie for the mass market, inspite its impressive cast.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite cinematography but disappointing all-round,
This review is from: The Black Dahlia [DVD] (DVD)I tried to watch 'The Black Dahlia' twice, only succeeding on the second viewing. Initially, I was slightly tired and found the plot completely incomprehensible. Second time around, I understand some parts but because the pieces are not really connected until the last part of the movie, I understand parts but not all.
Initially, the plot focuses on 'Mr Fire' (Eckhart) and 'Mr Ice' (Hartnett), two former boxers who have joined the LAPD. They compete in a LAPD Gym match to raise public support for a funding increase for the department. The relationship between them and Johannson's character, 'Kay' is built and developed in the first 30 minutes. There are also some events that are significant but not clarified until later.
Then comes the murder of the Black Dahlia, a wannabe-actress whose castings haven't gone well and who has been hanging out at lesbian clubs; engaging in a lesbian porn-flick; and gotten a reputation for being promiscuous. She's been brutally murdered, cut from ear to ear and disembowelled.
As said, here and by other reviewers, the plot is incoherent and at times dull. Its difficult to follow the plot so expect to work, but even with full attention it is very hard to work out this confused puzzle. As well as this, Hartnett in the lead lacks charisma and is actually quite bland. Johannson and Eckhart are better, but as suggested they didn't have a lot to work with. The star of the film for me was Swank, who manages to stun with here appearance and accent, as the glamourous, enigmatic Madelline Linscott.
The cinematography is exquisite - the screen is alive with colour and the sets are all very vibrant and appealing. There is also a slight Hitchcock-like use of camera angles, with fade-ins etc. But despite this, the plot fails to deliver and leaves one feeling perplexed and disappointed.
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The Black Dahlia [DVD] by Brian de Palma (DVD - 2007)