The Black Dahlia (15)



Thriller (2006)
120mins US

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer(s): Josh Friedman
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

When B-list actress Betty Ann Short, aka The Black Dahlia, is brutally slain, cops Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert are assigned the task of catching the killer. Their investigation has dramatic consequences for their personal lives: Lee becomes obsessed with the case at the expense of his relationship with the beautiful Kay, while Bucky strays into the web of vamp Madeleine Linscott, whose society family may be closely linked to the murder.

Seen that movie? Leave a comment / review here >>

LondonNet Film Review

The Black Dahlia
With a fine pedigree in brutal, uncompromising crime dramas - Scarface, The Untouchables and Carlito's Way - director Brian De Palma would seem a perfect ringmaster for this handsome adaptation of James Ellroy's best-selling novel...

Josh Hartnett and Hilary Swank in The Black Dahlia. Photo Credit:Rolf Konow, SMPSP. Film released by: Entertainment Films.Unfortunately, Josh Friedman's script ties itself in knots trying to distil the book's dense plot, inspired by the real-life murder of a 1940s Hollywood starlet, resulting in a baffling final 30 minutes saturated with hurried exposition and revelations.

The first hour stands The Black Dahlia in good stead, meticulously sketching the characters and laying the foundations for an intriguing romantic triangle. Once the film broadens its scope, introducing characters from the upper echelons of wealth and power in Tinseltown, momentum and dramatic tension quickly dissipate.

Supporting performances, particularly Fiona Shaw's portrayal of a mentally unstable society matriarch with a dark secret and a healthy appetite for liquor, are so over the top, they seem to hark from a different film entirely. Her harridan mother screeches and wails while the other characters shift uncomfortably in their seats, like us.

The pivotal scene, which reveals the sordid truth about the murder, is overshadowed by Shaw's comical wave to her co-stars before making her exit. Josh Hartnett, whose young cop provides the voiceover narration, doesn't have enough physical presence or brooding intensity to counterbalance the hysteria. Aaron Eckhart is the film's saviour as the bully boy, gradually losing his tenuous grip on sanity.

One-timer boxers Lee Blanchard (Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Hartnett), nicknamed "Fire" and "Ice" in the ring, swap their gloves for police badges in a city controlled by crooked politicians and ruthless gangsters.

When B-list actress Betty Ann Short (Mia Kirshner), aka The Black Dahlia, is brutally slain - bludgeoned, disembowelled and a clownish grin sliced from ear to ear - Blanchard and Bleichert investigate. Their strong-arm tactics have dramatic consequences for their personal lives. Lee becomes obsessed with the case at the expense of his relationship with girlfriend Kay (Scarlett Johansson), while Bucky strays into the web of vamp Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), whose creepy and eccentric clan - father Emmett (John Kavanagh), loopy mother Ramona (Shaw) and younger sister Martha (Rachel Miner) - may be closely linked to the murder.


De Palma and director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond evoke the era with sepia-toned filters, which capture the glamour and opulence of Dante Ferretti's magnificent production design, recreating the landmarks of a post-war Hollywood long forgotten.

While Eckhart blows Hartnett off the screen, Swank out-slinks Johansson thanks to some decent one-liners.

De Palma enlivens the testing two-hour running time with his dazzling, trademark flourishes including a breathtaking aerial tracking shot of the murder scene and a masterful showdown on a marble staircase. But even his directorial brio isn't enough to stop The Black Dahlia wilting.

- Heather Von Bourne


London Cinemas

From Friday 24th April
To Thursday 30th April

Not showing at any
London cinemas this week.
From Friday 1st May
To Thursday 7th May

- Vue North Finchley
- Vue Romford


« Back to Index

Rest of UK and Irish Cinemas

Listed in alphabetical order by city/place name followed by cinema name.

From Friday 24th April
To Thursday 30th April

Not showing at any
UK cinemas this week.
From Friday 1st May
To Thursday 7th May

- Birmingham, Vue Birmingham
- Leeds, Vue Leeds The Light


« Back to Index