The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia is a film that kept me entertained for approximately 30 minutes of its runtime. After that time, I became bored. The story kicked in at this point, and it became incredibly uninteresting. This isn't because nothing happens, but possibly because too much is going on, and it becomes difficult to keep track of it all or care about what's going on. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to follow what happened, or maybe I just didn't care. The latter is likely closer to the truth, because I felt the energy drop right off the table at a certain moment, and at this point, the film just dies.
Good actor, but a bad film.
I can already hear people wanting to tell me that the plot is complicated because this is how it actually happened. The majority of the story deals with the real life case of the murder of one Elizabeth Short. The newspapers decided to dub the case "The Black Dahlia", which is, I suppose, also how the name of the film was chosen. Her body was found in an open field, cut in half at the waist and it was also eviscerated. Most of our film follows two men who attempt to solve the case.
We're introduced to our heroes at the very beginning of the film. They're both cops, and they meet for the first time during a town riot. Dwight Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) are their names. The film opens with them taking down a couple of thugs, showing us that they're good fighters. This skill is soon put to the test, as the two men are told to participate in a boxing match in order to raise awareness for the police station. This boxing match is fun to watch, but it ended too quickly for my taste.
They get promoted thanks to this publicity stunt, and that is when they get put on the case of Elizabeth Short. And this is when I stopped caring. I'm not sure what it was exactly, but the film just lost all of its intrigue and intensity, even though it was trying to be thrilling and emotionally engaging. It failed, and it failed hard, but I guess you can say that, at the very least, it tried, which is more than you can say for a lot of films.
Also a good actor, but the movie still sucks.
I think one of the main reasons that it fails to connect on an emotional level is because the actors don't really seem to put in a lot of work. This is one of those movies that needs good acting, and we don't get it. Neither Hartnett or Eckhart give us much emotion, even when there are scenes clearly calling for it, and this means that it's difficult for us to care. And when the story has as many threads as this one does, you need to pay attention. If you don't care, this is difficult to do.
It doesn't help that the story is fully of melodramatic tripe that has no place or purpose. Blanchard has a girlfriend from the film's outset named Katherine Lake (Scarlett Johansson). A love triangle, at some point, happens between the three characters. Why? To make it seem like there's reason for us to care? To show that the characters are flawed? It doesn't really accomplish either of these goals. And if that's how it really happened, well, films take liberties by excluding things all the time. That should have been done here.
I've been told that watching this film a second time improves it. "There's just too much to absorb in a single viewing." But I don't think that's the case. Yes, there's a lot to take in, and yes, the plot has a lot of depth, but I don't think it's too much. And if it really is, then the filmmakers haven't done their job of conveying their film to the average audience member, who's only going to sit through the 2 hour film once.
How did this great cast result in such a bad film? I'm so disappointed with it. :/
Of course, fans of the film will continue to argue the notion that the film is realistic and that all of the events happened. I don't buy that excuse though. You can take more or less whatever liberties you want in translating a real story to film, and since there are a lot of elements that just don't work, it would have been a good idea to exercise this right and cut out these parts.
I almost want to say that The Black Dahlia suffers from over-ambition but I don't get that kind of vibe for it. Sure, a lot happens, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was trying too hard. Instead, it seemed like there was so much going on to make it seem like there was depth and to over-complicate it to hide the fact that a lot of its elements weren't working. Or maybe they believed it was the greatest film ever and that all of its elements were required in making something great. I can't be sure, but regardless, there is too much going on to have a good film.
The Black Dahlia is long and boring, not because nothing happens, but because it's too hard to concentrate on everything that is going on. The acting is bland, and because of this, it's difficult to feel a connection to any of the characters. There's some filler that has little purpose other than to pad the film's runtime, and there's just nothing of interest that kept me wanting to keep watching after the first 30 minutes. Instead of watching this movie, read about the case on the internet -- it'll probably be more fun.
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