[Movie Review] The Black Dahlia


Stranger Than Fiction
Political Access
30 Jan 2004
Where to begin. It sucks. No, that's not harsh enough ... ITS TERRIBLE! And I had such high hopes for it. Really it looks like a can't miss, Brian Depalma, Josh Friedman, based on a James Ellroy novel with her royal hotness Scarlett Johansson. Wow.

Allow me to jump back in time. A few weeks back I said Snakes on a Plane was some of the most fun I've had at a movie. The Black Dahlia is the exact opposite. I also mentioned in that review about how Josh Friedman started the SoaP craze and how his blog is absolutely amazing. I mean its smart, funny, insightful what else could you ask for? The problem is it seems thats where his writting talents end, now he's written 3 bad movies. Chain Reaction wasnt his fault, the studio took his script and rewrote it. He got co credit on War of the Worlds with David Koeppe, that movie was fine until the rush job ending. Now he's done The Black Dahlia... I can't begin to explain this thing. It's a mess. We'll start with that.

I read an interview with Josh where he said his initial draft (6 years ago & with a different director) was 170+ pages. If you don't know the rule of thumb it goes 1 page = 1 minute of screentime. So over 170 minutes of movie, now it's 2 hours of nonsense. I guess the 50 pages that got cut contained the story. Cause there isn't one here. Events unfold for not real reason, characters come and go, the line delivery is stiff and boring and the resolution is absurd.

Visually it's a mess too. DePalma apparenlty wanted to make a film noir. He has the gruff cops chain smoking and doing voice over narration he has the steamy damsels and the seedy underbelly. He got that kinda right but its shot against a bright backdrop and loses all feel for film noir. Some of his shots are bizarre, at one point one of the cops is watching someone (we are not told who until after the fact) while reading a paper, since it's supposed to be the cops POV, they inserted a newspaper over the bottom 1/4th of the screen. It looks dumb. Another POV scene has a cop meeting a rich family, the camera pans back and forth to each person and they stare deep into the screen and talk, seemingly to the audience and not the character. It looks bad, real bad, like film students trying to emulate Stanley Kubrick.

I mentioned the bad story. I'll try to explain it, I'd throw spoiler tags in here but I don't know what happened so I don't know whats being spoiled. First off, they never explain who or what the black dahlia is. I had to look it up, a dahlia is a flower. That makes no sense. There is one mention of a dahlia early on when discussing the case and that is when someone references and old movie called the Blue Dahlia. How that movie ties to the murder is unexplained, the characters simply start calling the murder victim the dahlia. If thats not confusing enough, the whole film sputters along with stupid events that never really go anywhere. It opens with sailors fighting cops in the streets, there was a radio broadcast in the background saying some sailor was murdered. Why this caused the battle royale is never explained. From there the two cops (nicknamed fire & ice, straight out of a bad Stallone movie) are in a boxing match. From there they are friends and sort of share a wife/girlfriend/cook. Next there is a stakeout, a grisly murder, a parole, a setup, another murder or two, and then a horrible tie up job at the end that attempts to explain the lameness that just wasted two hours of my life.

I'd call this the worst movie of the year except for the fact that Hostel came out the first week in January. So 2nd worst of the year.

0.5 out of 5 OSNN STARS

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