Tuesday, October 10, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: The Black Dahlia

Well it's been a while but I finally got a chance to see a movie. Now I know this one has been out for a while but I had been on the fence about whether or not I really wanted to see this film. The Black Dahlia is unfortunately a true story about a woman named Elizabeth Short who was brutally killed in the 40's. This particular film was based on James Ellroy's novel of the same name. The film felt long and it wasn't sure where it wanted to go. It had all the cliché noir elements but it didn't really capture the essence of most Ellroy novels. I am a big fan of his books: American Tabloid, L.A. Confidential and Clandestine. I have not had the chance to read Black Dahlia, but I think I will now. Ellroy's books are very tough to scribe for films. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland and director Curtis Hanson did an incredible job adapting L.A. Confidential to the screen. Ellroy weaves a lot of characters and dead end tales that make his stories a briar patch of plot that would give any writer worth his salt massive headaches.

This film was no exception. Brian De Palma did a good job visually with this film, the sets were pretty and he had the star filter just perfect on Scarlett Johannson and Hilary Swank. He just couldn't quite navigate the story it was all over the place. The film focused on the two lead detectives in the case: Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Leland Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart ). They call themselves Fire and Ice as they appear to be good buddies even after Blanchard knocks out two of Bucky's teeth in a boxing match. Blanchard seems to take the Dahlia case very seriously and a little over the top if you ask me, but it's a Brian De Palma movie so I shouldn't have been surprised. Bleichert tries to keep his partner calm as he gets himself deeper into the case. The girl was cut in half with her mouth sliced ear to ear. Bucky gets a little too close to the Femme Fatale Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), who had had a relationship with Elizabeth Short. Of course how can I forget the very beautiful and voluptuous Scarlett Johansson who plays the girlfriend of the erratic Blanchard. Mia Kirshner plays the tragic Elizabeth Short/Dahlia mostly in black and white audition tapes and a very creepy sex tape. They even go so far as to show the extent of the mutilation to this poor girl and it is pretty damn frightening.

Overall this film is just a giant mess. It doesn't focus enough on the actual murder of Elizabeth Short as it does the shortcomings of the lead Detectives investigating the case. Hartnett, Swank and Johansson are pretty faces who try to make this a gritty crime drama but it doesn't quite get there. I think this film is an improvement from such De Palma films like Bonfire of the Vanities or Snake Eyes but unfortunately that isn't saying very much. As a noir it's too cliché and as a thriller it's kind of boring. My suggestion go and see Hollywoodland. Hopefully if they decide to adapt American Tabloid they'll enlist Hanson and Helgeland again, otherwise my suggestion is to leave the damn thing alone.

Grade: 2 and 1/2 buckets

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