The Black Dahlia

Wretched.

I was tempted to let that one word serve as the entire review – but I could hardly do that to my adoring public, now could I? I’ve got to fill you in with every boring moment and clichéd nuance that Brian De Palma has served to us on a film noir platter.

The first problem was the cast. Blandy McBlanderson, AKA Josh Hartnett, should not be in any movies, ever. His complete lack of film presence creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of a film. I don’t have as harsh an indictment of Scarlett Johansson, but she should have gotten some pointers from Hilary Swank. Now there’s a dame that can act. She was putting on her best Bacall and really trying to make the best of bad situation. Likewise for Mia Kirshner, an excellent casting choice for the Black Dahlia. I was pleasantly surprised when Rose McGowan popped in for a short cameo.

Although it clocked in at just over two hours, it felt far longer. By the time we got out of the theater, I was convinced that it was longer than Return of the King. The whole thing dragged from beginning to end. The only entertaining scenes were the ones with Madeline’s crazy ass mother. She’s really the only interesting character in the whole film.

Was it really necessary to toss that turkey on the floor so that Josh and Scarlett could hump on the kitchen table? That seems like a waste of perfectly good poultry to me.

Speaking of turkeys, the biggest problem is the plot. I guess it’s not so much De Palma’s fault as it is James Ellroy’s fault – he wrote the damn book in the first place. Why give the two antagonists such similar names – Blanchard and Bleichert? It took me half an hour to figure out which one was which – and by then, I really didn’t care. The plot wasn’t so much full of twists and turns, as it was full of contrived scene after contrived scene. The “lesbian bar” was just ridiculous – was k.d. lang really necessary? By the end of the movie, I did not care who killed the Black Dahlia, I was just hoping he would strike again. I’m curious as to whether the book is actually as wretched as the movie – I might actually pick it up if I see it for cheap.

Regardless of the aforementioned flaws, I probably would have hated the film no matter what. I’ve had an interest in the Black Dahlia case for decades. I first read about the case in my dad’s set of Crime and Punishment encyclopedias. Then there was that one episode of Hunter that cemented my interest. By the time the internet came around, I was able to read far more about the case than was probably healthy. After coming across the crime scene photos online, I definitely lost a bit of interest (Rotten.com has a tendency to do that to a person). My interest was renewed in the last couple of years with a new spate of theories – two different people coming out of the woodwork with books stating that their fathers were the murderer and the subsequent TV specials…and now this film. Well. Wretched as it was, my expectations were likely too high in the first place. I’ll just wait for new theories to roll in and avoid the related fiction like the plague.