Before seeing “The Black Dahlia,” it is important to know that the movie is based on the fictional novel by James Ellroy, not the true, unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short. This information may have curbed my disappointment since the “Black Dahlia Murder” is one of L.A.’s most infamous and gruesome unsolved crimes. In 1947, twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short was found bruised, beaten, and naked in a field. Her torso was cut in half and her mouth sliced open from ear-to-ear. Her murder shocked the nation. However, this movie strays so far from the actual murder that it should not even have been titled “The Black Dahlia.”
“The Black Dahlia,” directed by Brian De Palma, is set in post-WWII Los Angeles. The movie focuses on two fictional detectives, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichart (Josh Hartnett) and his partner, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). Originally, they are tracking a child rapist when the mutilated body of aspiring actress, Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), is found. Lee becomes obsessed with the case and fights to get himself and Bucky assigned to the taskforce. Investigating Elizabeth’s background leads Bucky to wealthy heiress, Madeline Linscott (Hilary Swank), with whom he starts a relationship. There is also an undeniable attraction between Bucky and Lee’s girlfriend, ex-prostitute, Kay (Scarlett Johansson).
With all the great actors in “The Black Dahlia,” one would think this movie would be an instant hit. Unfortunately, most of the acting is not particularly moving and most of the roles could have been played by far less talented actors. Although the set design and costumes are convincing of the time period, the actors unfortunately are not. Being a Scarlett Johansson fan, I was disappointed in her attempt to play a seductive, pseudo-trophy housewife fell agonizingly short.
The twists and turns of “The Black Dahlia’s” plot are not exciting, but rather so confusing that, by the end, it takes great effort to piece together the reasoning behind it all. Even with Bucky giving a spoken explanation to end the movie, it was difficult to understand the conclusion. With better acting, a less confusing plot and perhaps some more gore, this movie could have received a better review. However, my advice is not to waste your money or two hours of your time.