Cinema Fan - Movie Reviews

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Black Dahlia **

Brian De Palma must be the best ‘worst’ director in the industry today. This film marks another new low in cinema. So, with that as a preamble, let’s see what we have here.

The book, “The Black Dahlia” is a novel by James Ellroy that is also a fictionalization of the famous LA murder of Beth Short. So far, the real crime has remained unsolved, and this film is another fictionalization of the truth.

Our film opens with one of the two police officers who will work on the investigation. Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) is a boxer who is going back into the ring for a charity event to help promote a new bond measure that will provide more funds to the LAPD. His opponent is Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), also professional fighter, and the two become partners. This story takes place in the late 40’s, after WWII and the ‘Zuit-suit’ riots.

As the overly-intricate plot unfolds, we find that Bucky hangs around with his partner, Lee and his partner’s girlfriend, Kay (Scarlett Johansson) during his off hours. Lee also has a thinly-veiled connection to some very seedy people who cause the pair some trouble. Just after a shootout with a few of these under-world types, the body of a woman is discovered. She has been carved up and gutted and left in an open field.

Our two main characters are pulled onto the case. During their investigation, Bucky meets Madeleine Linscott (Hillary Swank). This woman appears to be an insatiable sex addict that once met the deceased. She and Bucky have an affair while his partner appears to have lost himself in a script that was written by a Chandler wanna-be. The ‘surprise’ ending is totally inane.

I give this film 2 stars (out of five). By the end of the film, not only did I not care who killed Beth Short, but I was willing to stab someone in the theatre if it would have made the lights come back up. The reason it even rates 2 stars is that it does have excellent photography and art direction.

I am going to put the blame all on De Palma. The acting was stilted and the plot and editing was confusing (there was no real sense of where we were in the time-line of the main plot). Even the point of view (POV) of the camera was totally random. At one point, the POV is that of the character (Bucky), creating a caricature effect of the Linscott family.

Now, supposedly, all these seemingly random events tie together at the end: the partner’s graft, the partner’s girlfriend’s past, the lover’s relationship to the dead girl, the father’s wealth, the mother’s lover, yadda, yadda, yadda.

My recommendation is that when you see this film on the rental shelf, pick it up and drop it into the nearest trashcan.