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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Black Dahlia

Starring: Josh Hartnett .... Ofcr. Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert

Scarlett Johansson .... Kay Lake

Aaron Eckhart .... Sgt. Leland "Lee" Blanchard

Hilary Swank .... Madeleine Linscott

Mia Kirshner .... Elizabeth Short

Synopsis: The Black Dahlia is set in 1940s Los Angeles. Two cops, Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and his partner, Lee Blanchard, investigate the death of Elizabeth Short, a young woman found brutally murdered. Bucky soon realizes that his girlfriend had ties to the deceased, and soon after that, he begins uncovering corruption and conspiracy within the police department.

Based on a true unsolved murder. In the 1940s, a young and beautiful woman named Elizabeth Short came to Hollywood, destined to become a famous actress. However, her brutal murder in 1947 would make her famously known as 'The Black Dahlia' and would become a conspiracy and an obsession with all involved.

The Black Dahlia The Black Dahlia
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Review:* Miscasting does in De Palma's 'The Black Dahlia'

Since "The Black Dahlia" more or less tells the story of an actress, a heinously murdered one at that, it makes sense that the first thing you notice about this so-so adaptation of James Ellroy's novel is the shoddy acting.

Fixating on the performances seems inevitable since it's a Brian De Palma picture. The director bears the unique distinction of being responsible for some of the most sublime performances in the movies (Sissy Spacek in "Carrie," say, or John Travolta in "Blow Out") and some of the worst (see ``Bonfire of the Vanities" -- or don't). But "The Black Dahlia" is woefully short on the sublime.

Ellroy's 1987 novel spun the notorious butchering of Elizabeth Short, a 22-year-old aspiring starlet from Medford, into a strange noir melodrama. Like the book, the film is set in post-World War II Los Angeles and tells the tale through the lazy eyes of Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), a lanky cop and ex-GI, who is promoted from beat work to the sexier warrants division.

There, along with his psychologically volatile partner, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), Dwight descends, as too many real-life men have, into an obsession with the case of the dismembered young woman. Mia Kirshner plays Betty dolorously in flashbacks and screen tests that provide the film with its only true emotional substance. You can see why writers and detectives would have a hard time shaking those big sad eyes.

Hartnett seems ideal for this line of work. He has a slow-to-wake innocence that suits a character whose detective skills always appear to be two or three scenes behind ours. The character's smarts are slightly below average, and Hartnett doesn't have the gravity to raise him up. He's almost too innocent.


*Review by: Wesley Morris, Boston


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