The Black Dahlia (2006)

Genre: Thriller, Drama

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank

Synopsis: After the gruesome murder of a struggling actress/hooker pretending to be an actress, a rookie detective assigned to the case starts dipping his wick in the main suspect.

I’m a big fan of LA-based noire and, after giving LA Confidential such a positive rating, it would be easy to assume that I would love The Black Dahlia. Unfortunately, that’s not the case because this movie is kind of crap. It’s not God awful, but extremely disappointing. I remember when this came out and the trailer looked so stylish and sexy and I thought to myself: “Wow, that’s probably really good.” Turns out I was mistaken. Whoever did the editing of the trailer did a wonderful job but they either not involved in editing the main picture or he or she had very little to work with.

The problem is that this movie could have been brilliant. The case of the Black Dahlia is inherently fascinating and James Ellroy’s original book is supposed to excellent (I’m currently on page 50 so I can’t really confirm that just yet). The whole way through the movie I was spotting scenes that would have worked so well if a different actor was cast. Take Scarlett Johansson as an example. I love her, I really do, but she couldn’t handle the role of Kay Lake. Similarly, Hilary Swank’s portrayal of the movie’s femme fatale was…drunken? At times it looked like she’d just done a few Jaeger bombs off set and then quickly shimmied on stage to read her lines in a sultry/soused manner. I think that with a more mature cast the movie would have improved tenfold, although not enough to save it because the narrative was a bit of a mess too.

A lot of people have said that they weren’t able to follow what was going on in the movie. Oddly enough, I didn’t have the same problem. Or maybe I didn’t think I had the same problem because I was stoned. Either way, I wasn’t completely lost but the movie felt like there was a lot missing. For instance, I didn’t understand the motivations of the lead characters. It’s never really explained why Aaron Eckhart’s character goes cray or why Scarlett Johansson’s character likes to flash her granny pants at Josh Hartnett. Overall, the film felt half-baked (el oh el, baked!).

There were some positive points in the movie though. De Palma’s technical brilliance shone through on more than one occasion and the actress who played the Black Dahlia was very convincing as the down-trodden and abused harlot. I also thought that it was interesting to see old timey LA and its class system. Unfortunately, for every good moment there was a bad one of equal weight to cancel it out so finished the movie feeling rather unsatisfied. Maybe one day there’ll be a proper adaptation of the book but, in the meantime, stick to LA Confidential and Chinatown.

High-lights:

  • Good camera work.
  • There was a scene where a woman asks Josh Hartnett if he knows Vermont Avenue. I was all like: “Oooh I used to live near Vermont Avenue!” Her next statement was that it was full of hookers. Made me feel all classy.

Downers:

  • Goddamn it Rose McGowan and Hilary Swank.
  • “You don’t want to kill me. You want to fuck me instead!” BANG…say wut?
  • The boxing scene was gross. My teeth still ache from watching it.

Summary:

The Black Dahlia is not the worst movie out there but it is nowhere near the best. If you do decide to watch it then I’d recommend that you do so with friends so you can take the piss out of it as you watch it. Either that or you could play that LA Noire videogame. I hear that’s quite a lot of fun.

4.5/10

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1 Comment

Filed under Drama, Meh, Thriller

One response to “The Black Dahlia (2006)

  1. I remember seeing the trailer and really thinking it had the potential to be a good movie. I guess it’s an example of a movie where a lot more thought was put into making the trailer than the actual movie; Gangster Squad apparently suffered the same problem as I remember the trailer looking really cool.

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