The Black Dahlia (2006)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Brian De Palma Brian De Palma
Josh Hartnett Josh Hartnett
Scarlett Johansson Scarlett Johansson
Aaron Eckhart Aaron Eckhart
Hilary Swank Hilary Swank
Mia Kirshner Mia Kirshner

5.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Crime, Period Film, Police Drama, Post-Noir (Modern Noir)
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: September 21, 2006
I laughed. And I laughed. And I laughed some more. Then I took a short break from the laughter, re-established myself, and then resumed laughter. This would be fine if the film I had been watching was "Kingpin" or "The Naked Gun", or even "Ishtar". Alas, what I was watching was none other than Brian De Palma's latest vanity trip, the worst motion picture of the year and one of the most insanely miserable cinematic experiences of my lifetime - the utterly dreadful "The Black Dahlia", which creeps up on you like diarrhea at a clambake. Having just seen the thoroughly entertaining and provocative "Hollywoodland" the weekend before, I was still in the mood for some good old fashioned film noir. But, with Brian De Palma, you either get a masterpiece, or schlock; and, most of his films tend to fall towards the latter. De Palma is not a solid director. He is a mediocre director who has made some really good films. But, even his really good films have been borderline over-the-top. "Scarface" is the perfect example of that. Take his most latest endeavors: a laughable Nicolas Cage in the horrible "Snake Eyes"; the big budget ridiculous flop that was "Mission to Mars"; and, going back to 1992, the laughably idiotic "Raising Cain", which featured John Lithgow as some kind of doppleganger. Yuck. "The Black Dahlia" is right up there with the worst of his stuff, even though not even this film could surpass the brilliant stupor of Mr. Lithgow.

Looking as if he's posing for an Abercrombie & Fitch poster most of the time, Josh Hartnett stars as the 'grizzled' detective Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert, known by the name Mr. Ice on the boxing circuit. After going toe-to-toe with another fellow cop/fellow boxer by the name of Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), aka Mr. Fire, he throws the fight and is given a primo job at the local precinct working with the guy who knocked out his two front teeth. The two eventually become entangled in what is called 'The Black Dahlia Case', the vicious murder of an aspiring actress who was murdered and dissected and left in a vacant field. The rest of the film deals with the case as the two men sort out their own personal demons and try to find the killer. Scarlett Johansson stars as Eckhart's fiance Kay Lake, and Hilary Swank as a look alike for the dead girl, Madeleine Linscott. I promise you - I just made this film sound far better than it actually is. Mike Starr even pops up as a high ranking detective, and Mia Kirschner as the dead girl found in the field, whom we only see from pre-recorded screen tests. Now - take everything you've just read about this film. Close your eyes and envision it. Now, cover all of everything you just envisioned...with fecal matter. It might seem crazy, but that is what Brian De Palma did. He shat all over his own damned film.

Might as well work our way from the top down. Brian De Palma is the most egotistical and self-gratifying director in Hollywood, and "The Black Dahlia" wreaks of his arrogance. Some of the camera shots in this film are screaming -- "Hey, Look, I'm Brian De Palma! Remember this!" This is the perfect example of Brian De Palma trying his damnedest to make a film like Brian De Palma. Only one problem - Brian De Palma doesn't typically make good films. He takes the film noir genre and turns it into something totally laughable. I was literally in hysterics during this film at scenes where I should not have been laughing. De Palma tries desperately to re-create the baby carriage scene from "The Untouchables", but gives us someone who looks like Richard O'Brien from "Shock Treatment" trying to strangle Aaron Eckhart while Blank from "Dick Tracy" sneaks out of the shadows with a razorblade. De Palma tries desperately to give us an ending that will make us shocked and uncertain, but the revelations are about as startling as discovering the guy at the gas station jipped you three cents on your change. Brian De Palma should no longer be given any money to make movies if this is all he brings to the table. I felt like I was watching Ed Wood's attempt at directing a film noir piece. Maybe Ed Wood could have made me laugh genuinely.

And, what would a negative review be without trashing the performances. Wow. I hardly know where to begin. For starters, no one looks like they want to be here. They all look tired and bored and wasted and pissed off. Josh Hartnett has the seething brat thing down to a science, but he is not a strong actor in the first place, and having a lead role in this film showcases that. He is supposed to be this tough, grizzled guy, but he looks like he's trying to get laid for the prom. I cannot buy Hartnett in this kind of role. He doesn't look the part, and he cannot act the part. As his partner and friend, Aaron Eckhart seems to be channeling Chuck Norris through most of the film, with his baby girl emotional swings to his attempts to look at the camera and wink without spilling his drink. Eckhart was better served saving the world in "The Core" than saving his martini in this miserable waste of time. Hilary Swank gives the worst performance in the film as, quite possibly, the most unattractive and disgustingly bizarre character in recent film history. Her accent recalls memories of an American community theatre production of "Mother Courage" - she just looks horrible and she plays the character with the charm and grace of a Moon Pie. As for Scarlett Johansson, she gives the best performance in the film, but even she knows she shouldn't be anywhere near this disaster, especially at this stage in her career. I guess all these guys just really wanted to work with Brian De Palma. Evidently, none of them took the time to check out "Mission to Mars" first.

There is very little chance that a film is going to come along that pissed me off as badly as "The Black Dahlia". I don't like filmmakers who think they're better than the rest of us, who think they're doing something inventive and creative when they're really just stroking their own egos. Brian De Palma does nothing for me, as a director, and he never really has. After "The Black Dahlia", I seriously doubt I will ever see one of his films in the theatres again. The best thing about this film is the poster. "The Black Dahlia" tries to act more clever than it really is. It tries to pass comedy off for noir, and it gives us the worst female performance of all time in the form of Fiona Shaw as Hilary Swank's mother. I didn't mention that earlier because I wanted to save the best for last. She's like a cross between Liza, "Mommie Dearest", and Celia Weston, all drunk and stumbling down the stairs. It was laughable, but not in the way De Palma intended. "The Black Dahlia" is a succubus, taking down everything cinematic and turning it into recycled vomitous bile.

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BuryMeAlive #1: BuryMeAlive - added 10/10/2007, 05:41 PM
Terrible and totally unintresting film. Never see it.
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