Screen Gems Movie Reviews
with Kennie Bass. You'll find it First On Fox!

The Black Dahlia September 15, 2006
The Black Dahlia
Studio: Universal Pictures
Rating: R for strong violence, some grisly images, sexual content and language.

For the second time in as many weeks a new movie takes up back in time to explore a famous mystery.

Unfortunately, "The Black Dahlia" doesn't fly quite as high as the Superman-flavored "Hollywoodland."

In director Brian De Palma's film, a young girl travels to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Instead, she winds up brutally murdered with her killer never found.

That's the premise of "The Black Dahlia," which is based on the real-life murder mystery surrounding the death of Elizabeth Short.

Adapted from the James Ellroy novel, the movie follows two Los Angeles detectives played by Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart.

While the men are on a stakeout the body of a young woman is discovered a short distance away. For different reasons, both detectives become obsessed with finding the woman's killer. The victim is dubbed "The Black Dahlia" for her short dark hair and choice of dark clothing.

Eventually, the investigation leads to an heiress played by Hilary Swank. She looks very much like the victim and the cops try to figure out what part, if any..she plays in the murder.

As the plot unfolds it's clear this screenplay is way too complicated. Too much material is simply thrown onto the wall in hopes that some of it will stick.

In the end it's just confusing and hard to follow.

Ellroy's books can be made into good films with "L.A. Confidential" serving as the example.

But this time out De Palma doesn't give us many of the spastic thrills of violence he's famous for.

Instead the movie limps along with just a few moments that hint at how good this film might have been.

The performances are adequate but no one really leaps off of the screen. Hartnett seems a little out of his depth and Eckhart and Johansson are relatively bland. Swank puts some zing into her role but it's not enough to save the production.

"The Black Dahlia" is a story of murder most foul, a tale of a life cut short. But the film doesn't live up to its real-life drama. It's a missed opportunity that leaves you hoping for much more than you get.

On my rating scale, "The Black Dahlia" earns a Single.

Screen Gems Score


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