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The Black Dahlia

Drama . Mystery . Crime

Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert are former boxers-turned-cops in 1940's Los Angeles and, when an aspiring young actress turns up dead, Blanchard and Bleichert must grapple with corruption, narcissism, stag films and family madness as they pursue the killer.

Actors: Scarlett Johansson , Josh Hartnett , John Kavanagh , James Otis , Patrick Fischler , Fiona Shaw , Mike Starr , Mia Kirshner , Hilary Swank , Aaron Eckhart
Directors: Brian De Palma
Release: 2006-09-15
More Info:
  • Nathan Rabin

    Hartnett and co-star Scarlett Johansson--that most fatale of current filmic femmes--are naturals for this kind of noir-hued material, but the pairing of Ellroy and De Palma proves a marriage made in hardboiled heaven.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    There are some virtuoso moments (the discovery of the mutilated corpse is extremely well done and blessedly ungraphic), but overall the result is much less than prime De Palma.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Kirk Honeycutt

    The second half feels heavy and unfulfilled, potential greatness reduced to a good movie plagued with problems.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • J. Hoberman

    Although the action set pieces are impressive, the exposition is sluggish. For all the posh dollies, high angles, and Venetian-blind crisscross patterns, The Black Dahlia rarely achieves the rhapsodic (let alone the delirious).

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Owen Gleiberman

    The film is more than a little in love with the corruption it finds under the floorboards -- and that, of course, is perfectly dandy. I wouldn't trust a film noir that wasn't enthralled by decadence.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Michael Sragow

    De Palma's direction shines, but noir script doesn't match his gifts.

    Baltimore Sun Full Review
  • Lou Lumenick

    If this overcooked version of James Ellroy’s novel - inspired by a famous 1947 Los Angeles murder - is less than fully satisfying or even believable storytelling and acting, it’s still possible to get a kick out of this fever dream loaded with eye candy.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Carrie Rickey

    The film's atmosphere is incendiary. It has style to burn. But for the most part, the performances are all wet.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Ethan Alter

    You've got to give the guy (De Palma) some credit. He's made a bizarre, baffling and at times flat-out bad movie. But at least it's rarely boring.

    Premiere Full Review
  • Adam Smith

    Gorgeously realised, gripping and doused in De Palma’s familiar technical wizardry, this is only let down by the director’s equally familiar uninterest in the humanity of his characters.

    Empire Full Review
  • Scott Foundas

    Swank's character and her performance are good enough to merit a movie of their own, instead of serving as fourth wheel to this lifeless ménage à trois.

    L.A. Weekly Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    "Chinatown" it ain't, not in any department. On its own level, however, new pic generates a reasonable degree of intrigue.

    Variety Full Review
  • Shawn Levy

    The Black Dahlia has sparks of brilliance, swaths of dark intensity, unpredictable crackles of wit, some solid acting. But it's chiefly flat and ambling and dull, insufficient in musculature and overripe with melodrama.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    Looks and flows great, dripping with the 1940s crime-thriller atmosphere that James Ellroy described in his 1987 novel. On other levels -- plot (overstuffed), suspense (muted), acting (Hilary Swank as a femme fatale? Please!), posing (Scarlett Johansson plays dress-up as a mini Lana Turner), sex (it's all before and after) -- the movie is a bust.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Rene Rodriguez

    Beautifully crafted, intricately plotted and obviously a labor of love. It is also a mess.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Jack Mathews

    In writer Josh Friedman and director Brian de Palma's attempts to condense the book's convulsively odd final chapters, they've created an even loonier melodrama.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    The world of The Black Dahlia is beyond bleak, beyond film noir.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Claudia Puig

    The Black Dahlia captivates with its dark style. But as with the particulars of the yet-unsolved case, the movie is frustratingly convoluted. What it accomplishes with its stunning cinematography and set design is undercut by a lack of coherence.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Wesley Morris

    The first thing you notice about this so-so adaptation of James Ellroy's novel is the shoddy acting.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    The sloppiness of the ending doesn't only damage The Black Dahlia, it sinks the project.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Rick Groen

    Film noir is a style, but self-conscious film noir is just a stylistic tic, less a genre than an ailment. And The Black Dahlia has got a really bad case -- this thing is so mannered it convulses.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • William Arnold

    The Black Dahlia, looks so terrific and is filled with so many imaginatively showy sequences and masterful directorial touches that you almost don't notice that, in every other way, it's just not a very good movie.

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    The plot has been greatly streamlined from Ellroy's book, but even so, it isn't any clearer, and the ending, convoluted and barely believable, hits with a thud. Full Review
  • Carina Chocano

    A few scenes are worth the price of admission for their inspired camp alone; Shaw happens to be in two of them.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • J.R. Jones

    Director Brian De Palma will probably take the rap for this tepid noir, but the real culprits are Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson, red-hot lovers in life but (as ever) gorgeous stiffs on-screen.

    Chicago Reader Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    It's a stilted thing--overstylized and inexpressive, like high-school kids playing dress-up, or bad Kabuki.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    Mr. De Palma can be a director of dazzling creative lunacy, but there's little craziness in this restrained, awkward film. With the diverting exception of Hilary Swank, who plays a slinky degenerate named Madeleine Linscott, the leads are disastrous.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Stephen Hunter

    Here's the lowdown, the q.t., the true gen: The Black Dahlia is a big nowhere.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • David Denby

    The picture is a kind of fattened goose that's been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It's overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying.

    The New Yorker Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    Doesn't provoke bittersweet inquiries regarding one poor actress' grisly fate. Nor does it stir up much provocation on the matter of why, as a popular audience, we're still taken with this lurid symbol of sex and dread and desire. Rather, the movie raises a much simpler question: Huh?

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Maitland McDonagh

    A ludicrous mishmash undermined by ghastly performances and a hopelessly convoluted screenplay.

    TV Guide Full Review
  • Pete Vonder Haar

    It looks stylish, sure, but the script is laughable and the acting is ridiculous.

    Film Threat Full Review
  • Marc Savlov

    Forty-five minutes in, I was already glancing at my watch and wondering why the only lively actress in this film was playing the dead girl. Go figure.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Dana Stevens

    Even when engineering a howler like this, De Palma does it in such high style, with such a confident swagger, that the movie is half over before you realize how little is there.

    Slate Full Review
  • Joe Morgenstern

    The production certainly looks sumptuous, and certifies Mr. Hartnett as a mainstream movie star. But the script is frequently impenetrable, the pacing is ponderous, and the film noir style can't conceal a crucial piece of misconceived casting.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
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  • shooting a vase

  • cover up

  • confession

  • blood spatter

  • liar

  • cut in half

  • murder

  • 1940s

  • corpse

  • death

  • boxer

  • partner

  • black dahlia

  • murder hunt

  • los angeles

  • observer

  • pornography

  • shooting a statue

  • floor show

  • sex on a kitchen table

  • throat cut

  • candelabra

  • pack of hundred dollar bills

  • attacked from behind

  • shadow

  • decorative scarring

  • smoking after sex

  • human branding

  • woman wearing black lingerie

  • conga line

  • mug shot

  • wood frame model airplane

  • pellet gun

  • shooting pigeons

  • new year's eve party

  • car fire

  • ming vase

  • chinese hand laundry

  • stag film

  • 16mm projector

  • reference to victor hugo

  • earthquake

  • diner

  • mutilation

  • pistol

  • pride

  • mugshot

  • german

  • film within a film

  • photographer

  • unconsciousness

  • father daughter relationship

  • ambition

  • falling through a staircase

  • anti semitism

  • shed

  • lesbian bar

  • unsolved crime

  • nurse

  • hollywood boulevard

  • santa barbara california

  • movie projector

  • glasgow smile

  • criminal

  • painting

  • typewriter

  • strangulation

  • racial slur

  • secret

  • hollywood sign

  • dancer

  • interrogation

  • surveillance

  • beating

  • deputy district attorney

  • suicide

  • band

  • falling to death

  • teeth knocked out

  • reference to adolf hitler

  • redemption

  • hollywood california

  • female wearing a tuxedo

  • scottish american

  • thief

  • exploding head

  • model airplane

  • motorcycle

  • blood

  • friendship

  • u.s. soldier

  • watching a movie

  • lesbian slur

  • singer

  • racial discrimination

  • police captain

  • bartender

  • following someone

  • motel

  • shootout

  • bigot

  • hidden money

  • police chief

  • reference to the keystone kops

  • garrote

  • father son relationship

  • reference to scarlett o'hara

  • gash in the face

  • shot in the forehead

  • chelsea smile

  • cremation

  • silent movie theatre

  • bird's eye shot

  • obsession

  • blackmail

  • death of sister

  • deception

  • police station

  • movie set

  • chinatown los angeles

  • chandelier

  • gymnasium

  • subjective camera

  • three word title

  • gangster

  • knocked out

  • tuxedo

  • scar

  • throat slitting

  • african american

  • black american

  • police officer

  • election

  • slow motion scene

  • police car

  • publicity

  • newspaper

  • boyfriend girlfriend relationship

  • husband wife relationship

  • sister sister relationship

  • mother daughter relationship

  • flash camera

  • cigarette smoking

  • photograph

  • post world war two

  • whodunit

  • voice over narration

  • gun in mouth

  • forensic psychologist

  • flashback

  • first person narrative

  • father daughter incest

  • class differences

  • boxing match

  • blood splatter

  • autopsy

  • year 1947

  • year 1946

  • plant in title

  • color in title

  • box office flop

  • aspiring actress

  • socialite

  • disfigured face

  • switchblade

  • torso cut in half

  • shot through the mouth

  • shot in the chest

  • riot

  • lesbian kiss

  • female frontal nudity

  • police corruption

  • police detective

  • neo noir

  • lesbian

  • los angeles california

  • dismemberment

  • love triangle

  • death of friend

  • death of child

  • based on true story

  • based on novel

  • silent movie

  • cigarette holder

  • millionaire

  • coward

  • underage drinking

  • torture

  • broken leg

  • antique

  • southern american accent

  • hotel

  • rain

  • locker room

  • alcoholic

  • racial violence

  • gardener

  • knife

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  • singing

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  • swing music

  • screen test

  • burnt body

  • disembowelment

  • femme fatale

  • drunkenness

  • nightclub

  • dysfunctional marriage

  • dildo

  • zoot suit

  • flash forward

  • breaking and entering

  • pimp

  • sparring

  • reference to alan ladd

  • reference to rita hayworth

  • robbery

  • crow

  • beach

  • dead dog

  • wealth

  • reference to mack sennett

  • cross dressing

  • boxing

  • doppelganger

  • pet store

  • los angeles city hall

  • champagne

  • prostitute

  • reference to david o selznick

  • falling from height

  • movie extra

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  • fountain

  • stuffed dog

  • u.s. sailor

  • macarthur park los angeles

  • dancing

  • bare chested male

  • killing an animal

  • police shootout

  • true crime

  • hit with a baseball bat

  • foot chase

  • spiral staircase

  • topless female nudity

  • fistfight

  • new year's eve

  • police investigation

  • jewish

  • male rear nudity

  • child murder

  • crime scene

  • cleavage

  • scantily clad female

  • bare breasts

  • no panties

  • nudity

  • sexual attraction

  • panties

  • white panties

  • girl in panties

  • lesbian sex

  • female female kiss

  • promiscuous woman

  • lust

  • leg spreading

  • lingerie

  • voyeur

  • voyeurism

  • police pathologist

  • long shot

  • reference to gene autry

  • reference to bugsy siegel

  • reference to mickey cohen

  • waiter

  • reference to jim jeffries

  • reference to billy conn

  • reference to peter lorre

  • birdseye shot

  • newspaper headline

  • suicide by pistol

  • fall to death