'The Black Dahlia'
(Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, et al / DVD / R / (2006) 2007 / Universal)
Overview: '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.
DVD Verdict: Many will argue that Brian De Palma has lost his touch as a director. The memories of "Femme Fatale" and "Missions to Mars" are too close to comfort. Some say that his last best film was "Mission: Impossible," others believe that "Scarface" was his only hit. His latest effort is yet another disappointment. Things look pretty on screen but the story will probably leave you with more questions than answers. In 1947, Los Angeles was shocked by the gruesome murder of a young actress Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner). She was found naked and sadistically mutilated. The event sparks a manhunt to find the murderer. For the investigation, we have the police officers Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Leland "Lee" Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). As partners, they work together, but things are not always what they seem. Little by little, they find strange truths about themselves and the case they are working on.
Sure the story looks straight forward, but this is not the case. This is a Brian De Palma movie and he has to use his flashback/slow- mo/melodrama style that actually does more bad than good. "The Black Dahlia" is full of subplots which creates confusion and chaos. We are being bombarded with names and flashbacks - especially at the end - that are supposed to help you understand the events in front of you. It makes you wonder why De Palma cannot focus on the main story instead of showing love triangles, another police case, Lee's dark secrets and a boxing match. Also, the very little humor in Dahlia feels forced. The film gives you an alternate conclusion of the murder case, but by the time you get there, you will be wondering how all the events are connected. If you watch the film, question marks will haunt you also long after you've left your sofa. Be prepared. Without giving too many spoilers, I wonder how the investigators didn't notice things that were so obvious. The evidence is for all to see.
In the technical department, "The Black Dahlia" provides plenty of goodies. The cinematography and costume design are superb. There is a post-World War II look and feel to it that gives the audience plenty of eye candy. The sound is vivid and well mixed. We get a good but extensive cast, above average acting, but no Oscar. At first I thought that Josh Hartnett was way too lightweight to handle the main role, but he carried the water quite nicely. His acting career is growing and I must say this is his best performance to date. The editing is perfectly crafted to fulfill De Palma's visions and storytelling style, but this is what makes the film difficult to follow. In wrap, "The Black Dahlia" gives us decent performances and lots of visuals, but the plot - and subplots - are what make the movie difficult to follow and understand. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
"Reality and Fiction: The Story of The Black Dahlia" featurette
"The Case File" featurette
"The De Palma Touch" featurette (Presented by Volkswagen)
DVD Purchase Link