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The Black Dahlia(2006)

Poor Plot, Poor Performances


This film tries its best to recreate the noir crime drama; and though it succeeds in creating the atmosphere it fails to deliver a compelling mystery. With the solution to the crime coming out of left field, you get no enjoyment in trying to solve the case before the protagonist do. Intead of being left with, “Oh I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” you get “Oh..well I guess…that could be the solution.” Though I have little positive to say about the film, it is not a completely terrible movie; the production value shows visually and makes it quite entertaining to see. But with poor performances and a plot that lingers, this is a ‘watch if it happens to be on TV and you have nothing else to do’ kind of movie.


Not being fond of this genre of film, nothing compelled me to watch it right away (hence the late review). But since I see every movie eventually, it was only a matter of time before “The Black Dahlia” found my DVD player. The result, honestly, as I expected. With the major cast being Hartnett, Johansson, and Eckhart, you already know that 2/3 of the performances are going to be rubbish; and with a director like Brian De Palma (a roller coaster of success) 60% of the time you can expect a dud.

The plot

Two men of a brotherly status, Dwight (Hartnett) and Lee (Eckhart) join the police force after retiring from successful boxing careers. After the brutal death of an actress, Lee becomes obsessed with solving the crime. This jeopardizes the relationship he has with his girlfriend Kay (Johansson). Dwight being an assistant to the case, but much less involved, serves as a buffer between the lovers and often comforts Kay in her times of need. This inevitably leads to a tangled love affair. But this isn't the only tangle found in the plot. The story gets think and twisty as revelations are made about the homicide which lead to the solving of the case.

Reasons to see it

There really aren’t any good reasons to see the movie, so below I’ll just list the positive things I have to say about it.

The boxing is great. Though our characters are retired from their careers, we get one last boxing match out of them yet. This five minute treat is right up there with ‘Cinderella Man’ and ‘Rocky’. It’s well shot, it's brutal, and it's believable. Too bad there wasn’t more of this in the film (Yeah I know, this isn’t a boxing movie, but still…)

Another feat that was accomplished very well in this movie was setting the mood. Though the movie fails to deliver a convincing story, the costumes, lighting and score really pull you into the time period. From cars to guns, this movie doesn’t miss a detail.

The Negatives

The acting or the dialogue. I can’t quite tell whether the dialogue given to the actors was bad, or whether the actors just did a poor job reciting it (I am excluding Eckhart from this complaint, of course). Either way, this is a flaw that is impossible to overcome while watching the movie. Many conversations are spoken very fast as if everyone already knows what the other is going to say (it sounds very rehersed), and many lines fall flat as soon as they leave the actors lips. Also, is it just me or is Johansson no good? I feel that I have been convinced that she is a decent actress, but I haven’t seen her live up to this claim in any of the movies that I’ve seen her in recently (and I’ve seen them all). Her poor performances in the last few films have made me rethink how good she actually was in her past films ('Girl with a Pearl Earring' and 'Lost in Translation'). I suppose I’ll sort this out eventually, but for now, she is no good in 'The Black Dahlia'.

There were not enough interesting characters. Don’t get me wrong, the film tried to make every character interesting, but unfortunately, it did not succeed. With the exceptions of Lee (Eckhart) and Ramona Linscott (well played by Fiona Shaw) most of the characters never obtained my interest or investment.

Though Palma is no stanger to violence or raunchiness, I do feel that it was ill placed in this film. (I enjoyed American Psycho, so I’m not just a sensitive sissy.) The violence and nudity in the flim do help to tell the story in such a way that the audience feels privledged to all of the information, bue it bothered me be lingering on screen too long and occasionally being unnecessary. I understand the concept of trying to create a visual impact, but most of the scenes shown created an impact taht did not aid the film. I think implying the image or flashing it briefly is really all the audience needed to get the point in this story. This is a gripe that should serve as a warning to those who are faint of heart.

In short…

...See the movie if you want to, it takes itself seriously enough that an avid movie watcher might find enjoyment here. However, the movie does not come recommended by me, and I definitely advise those that watch movies to be entertained, to steer clear of this one.
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