The Black Dahlia review by The Grim Ringler

There is nothing as disappointing to a movie fan as to spend some good damned money for a new movie, to go out on opening night, and then to realize, ten minutes in, that you’re watching utter crap. Worse yet is realizing that this crap-heap you’re watching is coming from a director you dig.

Such was my plight when I went to see Black Dahlia, a movie so mediocre as to make me pine for the days of Ultraviolet so I could see that masterpiece all the way through and not this waste.

The film begins with a fight – a poorly staged, and horrendously choreographed fight if you want me to be honest – that leads to the pairing of two tough LA cops who would become known as Fire and Ice. Both men are amateur boxers and they are pegged by the department as a sure-fire way to get some political measures passed and a hell of a way to market the force to the public. The fight is brutal but does the job and the measures pass and the two men become partners and begrudgingly become friends. There is a tension between the men though as officer Bucky and Officer Lee start to share their lives. During a stakeout the two men end up in a firefight that leaves the man they were following dead, but while there they find out that just across the street from them a bigger crime had been committed. A once beautiful young starlet had been brutally murdered and bisected. While this isn’t the men’s case, Lee finds something in the murder of the young girl compelling and begins to obsess over it, pushing all other duties aside. Stuck in the middle is Lee’s beautiful wife, a woman who Lee seems to have no sexual relationship, and who gives Bucky more than a few lustful glances. Bucky though has eyes, and thighs, on another woman, a woman who looks shockingly like the dead starlet and who seems to know far more about that woman that she is letting on. The two cases – the one that lead to the firefight and the case of the Black Dahlia, as she is dubbed – slowly become interwoven by Lee’s dual obsession and as he works to find the answers, his marriage and career begins to fall apart. It’s left then to Bucky to find the last clues and to put them together, something that may be far more complicated and dangerous than he realizes.

Of the myriad of crappy things in this film, the fact that it’s barely even about the Dahlia until the end is a pretty big one. Then there’s the really lame ending where, in a story where nothing made sense, you have to try to piece together a pretty slim reason why it all happened, and the pieces don’t quite fit. This is, sadly, a very poor imitation of a noir thriller, and it’s a shame for all involved. The acting is mediocre and oft-times melodramatic. The story is ridiculously complicated. The score is dreadful. The cinematography is too soft. The direction is oft-times lazy. All in all, it’s a pretty damned dreadful movie, which sucks. I love director DePalma and he’s done some fantastic films, but it seems his best years are behind him. This is a terrible clash of styles – a script that seems both over AND underwritten and a direction style that doesn’t really seem to fit. This could have been a stunner to look at, if nothing else, if the director had really made this film his own but you get the feeling he was a gun for hire and was just trying to not get in the way of the actors and script. Pity, at least the direction might have been interesting if he had. There is one sequence, the death of a main character, that borders on interesting because of the way it was shot but in the end it becomes as frustrating as the rest of the film.

Hell, even the sex scenes were wasted as we get the idea that there is a lot of really intense and what the movies would call ‘perverse’ sexuality in this film but none of it is explored much. In the end, we are left with a caricature of Dahlia as a slutty starlet willing to sell her body and soul for fame but yet, she isn’t the only one that did that here. Every character sold part of their soul; it’s just that none of them have to pay for that sale.

It’s a shame that a film with so much talent behind it falls so short as it becomes a waste of everyone’s time. This is one of the most disappointing films of the year, along with X- 3 as, even with low expectations, these movies didn’t live up to what I had hoped. Trust me, pass this one by and read about the case on Wikipedia or something.


4 out of 10 Jackasses
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