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THE BLACK DAHLIA by Brian De Palma

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Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and his partner Leland “Lee” Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), nicknamed “Fire and Ice” by their colleagues, are assigned to the special task force in charge for solving the murder of Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), a.k.a The Black Dahlia. The starlet has been found dissected in a field, her inner organs removed and her mouth sliced open up to her ears, forming a grisly grin.
The friends, especially Lee, get more and more obsessed by the case, and Lee’s girlfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson) feels more and more attracted to Bucky. He shares her tender feelings, but would never cheat on his partner. Instead he throws himself into a sexual relationship with femme fatale Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), who knew Elizabeth Short, and gets to know her rich, but more than a bit eccentric family. How well did Madeleine who looks and dresses like the Black Dahlia really know Elizabeth?
And what is the connection between Kay Lake’s brutal ex-lover Bobby DeWitt (Richard Brake), Madeleine Linscott, her father Emmet and his shady dealings in building Hollywoodland, and a deadly shootout between Bleichert, Blanchard and some gangsters with the murder of Elizabeth Short?

Feeling confused already? The movie, based on James Ellroy’s novel (in turn loosely based on the real-life and still unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short in Hollywood in the 1940s) weaves multiple story strands into each other, not all of them relevant to the main plot. And even the main story – the murder of the Black Dahlia – is hardly more than a McGuffin. You will feel disappointed when you expect a murder mystery – it’s all about the ’40s in Hollywood, femme fatales (Hilary Swank), good girls (Scarlett Johansson – but is her character really a good girl?) and hard-boiled police detectives and how an unhealthy obsession affects and ultimately threatens to destroy their lives.
It starts with a punch (literally), but from there it goes down – the film focussing on central character and narrator Bucky (Josh Hartnett – who certainly gives his best and according to James Ellroy looks exactly like he imagined the character from his novel, but looks too young, too innocent and not tough enough to carry a film noir. A Russel Crowe in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL he ain’t), which is a problem because he doesn’t really do much.
THE BLACK DAHLIA doesn’t have as much sex and violence as you’d expect from a Brian De Palma movie, and the multi-threaded story will put off a lot of viewers, but when you are ready to just lean back and watch a stylish film noir (and the gorgeous actresses Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank and Mia Kirshner) without trying to constantly figure out what’s going on, you may well enjoy THE BLACK DAHLIA.


The Black Dahlia Movie Trailer

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