The Black Dahlia **


Josh Hartnet and Hilary Swank in "The Black Dahlia"

De Palma is a fantastic director, and here shows flashes of his brilliance, but the problem is that he has turned a real life murder in to a pulp noir thriller.  This movie would have been right at home in the 1950’s.  The performances are all just a tad over the top.  The characters emotions are heightened by the non-stop soundtrack.  It is a lot different then I was expecting. 

Now it is not that I detest these types of movies, its just that the elaborate sets and lavish costumes are wasted on a plot that tries to incorporate way too many side stories.  Each sub-plot does not add up to a  whole in the end.  It is like watching ten writers each come up with a different idea each, then try to put it all in to one story.  The result is pretty much a mess.  In the end, I found no closure.  I felt under whelmed by the conclusion.  Its like they tried to condense the “Lord of the Rings” movies in to one film.

The story revolves around the real life murder of Elizabeth Short.  She was a young aspiring actress until her body was found in two pieces.  Her jaw was cut almost down to her ears. 

This launches an investigation, headed up by Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), and Leland “Lee” Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). The two form an unhealthy relationship, including Lee’s girlfriend played by Scarlett Johansson.  They kind of form a family unit, giving us scenes where they have dinner together that caused a creepy, uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

Both of the men become obsessed with the case, each for personal reasons.  I won’t even touch on the plot more because it could honestly become this entire review.  What I will say is that it leads these men in to a labyrinth situation that most viewers will not be able to figure out. 

Perhaps this material is not really suited to someone like De Palma.  Perhaps a Sean Penn or David Fincher would be better suited to this.  At least they would have made a movie that was actually about the Black Dahlia.  De Palma movies seem to exist in fantasy worlds.  Where style and story meet head on.  There is a sense that the stories he tries to tell could not exist in the real world.  So to direct a movie based on real-life events seems like a contradiction.


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