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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars [3.5]--"She was always in the middle, but never between us....,",, June 29 2007
Jenny J.J.I. "A New Yorker" (That Lives in Carolinas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst films of the young 21st century, April 28 2007
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (DVD)
Rarely indeed do so many movie stars (and an acclaimed director) come together to make a movie as atrociously bad as The Black Dahlia. As if Elizabeth Short didn't suffer enough in life and death, now Hollywood comes along and exploits her memory as a hook to draw viewers in to a laughably awful film that, on its own, doesn't even have a single led to stand on. The film tries to project itself as some kind of modern-day film noir -- it fails miserably.

I always thought Scarlett Johansson was a talented actress, but seeing her really weak performance in this putrid film on the heels of her deer-in-the-headlights acting in A Good Woman, I'm definitely rethinking that opinion. One thing is for sure: Johansson does not do well in films set in pre-modern times and places. Then you have the team of Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett, Fire and Ice as they're labeled in the story: the fiery Eckhart throwing crazy fits one after the other while Hartnett struggles to let any hint of emotion (or life) make it past his wooden façade ' especially during his big romantic scene with Johansson (it may well be the most unromantic romantic scene I've ever seen). Hillary Swank, to her credit, wasn't bad at all in her role, but unfortunately for her that role was wrapped up so tightly in the film's ludicrous plot that her performance is tainted by association. As for Fiona Shaw, I certainly wouldn't want to be the one trying to pick up the pieces of her career after her climactic speech toward the end -- that scene sets the young twenty-first century standard for laughably ridiculous, deeply embarrassing acting. Thank the cinematic gods for the always-alluring and charismatic Mia Kirshner, though, as she is the only thing this movie has going for it. Playing the role of the ill-fated Elizabeth Short, we only get to see her in screen tests and part of a stag film, but she is mesmerizing.

I'm not even going to talk about the plot because it's just hopelessly convoluted and patently ridiculous. Apparently realizing the whole premise of the story made no sense, the writers kept adding dead ends, stairs to nowhere, and further oddities in the same vein as Sarah Winchester continuing construction on the Winchester Mystery House. You try to stay with the story for the first hour or so, but by the 90-minute mark I for one gave up completely. It was like different writers just kept throwing their own scenes in to the mix, with no knowledge of what happened before or after those moments.

Finally, I couldn't help but notice how unusually small all of the end credits were. Obviously, just about everyone connected to this film knew how bad the movie was and didn't want their names associated with it. I know I wouldn't.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Black disaster, Feb. 22 2007
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (DVD)
It had all the ingredients of a great movie -- sex, corruption, murder and a noir atmosphere.

So how, how HOW did it go wrong? Instead of the real-life murder thriller of the year, "The Black Dahlia" ended up being a turgid, incomprehensible mess that flops madly around like an epileptic fish. "The Cat's Meow," this ain't.

Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Leland "Lee" Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) are boxer/cops, and are on a stakeout when the dismembered, disfigured body of a young woman is found -- blood drained, chopped in half, and mutilated all over. The public becomes increasingly obsessed with who killed the starlet.

So Bucky and Lee start investigating who killed the Black Dahlia, prowling through lesbian bars and learning the seedy details of what happened to the girl, with tragic results for the partners. Who killed the Black Dahlia, and why? The answers are even more shocking.

And boring. "The Black Dahlia" is crammed with stuff to titillate and shock -- stag films, incest, lesbian pairings, and Johansson in 1940s lingerie. But it ends up doing the exact reverse -- it stupefies. Like a beautiful painting, it doesn't actually move -- it just sits there, looking pretty.

The first half is a pretty ordinary murder thriller, a la "L.A. Confidential," very glitzy and grimy, and fairly easy to understand. But when the guys start prowling through lesbian bars, the plot ties itself into a snarly knot, and gets more and more incomprehensible as Harnett rattles through.

Admittedly Brian De Palma juices this up with beautiful vintage costumes, sets and other stunning visuals. But by the ending, nothing makes sense -- and along the way, we have to deal with tepid subplots like the boxing (what?) and Bucky gallantly rejecting Lee's girlfriend's advances. It only complicates an incomprehensible plot, with turgid, forgettable dialogue.

Harnett looks wooden and confused, as if he's just been told to "play it like Bogart" and he has no idea who that is. Eckhart tries, but Lee is a character with no logical thought processes, and Johansson basically is there to look busty and have sex with Harnett.

Lame neo-noir with a twist of tepidity, "The Black Dahlia" takes what could have been a promising movie, and turns it into a Gordian knot of absurd subplots and horrible twists.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying, Dec 12 2008
Greg Curtis - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (DVD)
In 1947, the mutilated body of Hollywood wannabe Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant Los Angeles lot. Despite recent evidence that points to a prominent doctor, the legendary crime remains unsolved to this day.

But the gruesome murder is used merely as a backdrop in The Black Dahlia. In fact, her rather shady exploits seem thrown in as an afterthought. Rather than focusing on the actual investigation, the film follows the love triangle of two detectives (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) and the latter's girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson). A strangely affected Hilary Swank also appears as an heiress who may or may not know something about the killing. And Canadian singer K.D. Lang makes a cameo as a crooner in a lesbian bar.

Despite frantic direction by Brian DePalma and music that tries to heighten the tension (of which there is little), we learn virtually nothing about the motivation behind the characters' bizarre actions. Even the moody set design and rain-soaked streets cannot invigorate the plodding developments.

It is well known that the Los Angeles Police Department of the era was highly corrupt, which novelist James Ellroy used to great effect in L.A. Confidential. But so many subplots are woven into The Black Dahlia that the film gets bogged down and the proceedings become hard to follow. It is no wonder none of the principals give inspired performances -- they probably didn't understand the material. And the voiceover by Hartnett, impossibly poetic for a gumshoe, quickly becomes annoying.

While the movie does try to satisfy viewers by identifying a killer in the climax, the audience just doesn't care by then.

Whether the real Elizabeth Short was a sinner or a saint, her memory deserves better than this convoluted and boring effort. Rating: 3 out of 10.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars promising but boring and disappointing, Aug. 5 2007
Francesca Jourdan (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (DVD)
Based on James Ellroy’s book of the same name.
1940s. Los Angeles. Two cops, Bleichert aka Mr Ice (Hartnett) and Blanchard aka Mr Fire (Eckhart) investigate the brutal murder of a would-be actress, Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirschner).

Unfortunately this film just didn’t do anything right – except the the setting and costumes which were rather fine.

Being badly directed is its weakest point. Brian De Palma had all the good aspects of a great film: detectives, murder, guns, boxing match, violence, money, and women.
Then the script just went all over the place, everything was quite confusing and simply not well explained. The lack of factual detail doesn’t help and muddled the story further. The actors have difficulty mastering the year’s style and give uneasy and uncomfortable performances, even Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank. Having virtually no character development doesn’t help either.
The result was an imitation Film Noir.
Advertised as a crime / drama / thriller / mystery movie, it is *also* a comedy.

This is just another bad film… that bores and disappoints the viewer.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I don't get the appeal of Hilary Swank at all, July 25 2010
Brian Maitland (Vancouver, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) (DVD)
I have no idea why the Black Dahlia has to be remade into yet another movie and Brian De Palma seems to have completely lost any ability to make remotely interesting anything anymore.

To top it off, I don't know what Hollywood sees in Hilary Swank at all. First of all, are they all blind. This is not a sexy attractive woman and yet she plays a femme fatale in this.

Throw in the whole Scarlett Johansson, Josh Harnett, Aaron Eckhart what is the deal with them? Are they living a polyamorous lifetsyle? It's never fully revealed and I couldn't figure out if it was implied or what it had to do with anything. She's wasted in this role and she should have played the femme fatale character.

Anyway, it's a complete mess and looks as flat as a made-for-TV movie.

Could we put to rest any more Black Dahlia movies. Wasn't the 1975 movie starring Efrem "FBI" Zimbalist Jr. enough?
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The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
The Black Dahlia (Widescreen) (Bilingual) by Josh Hartnett (DVD - 2012)
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