After the critical and financial success of 1997's "LA Confidential," "The Black Dahlia" became a much sought after cinematic opportunity. Many big name directors and actors were connected to this Ellroy project. After a string of box office failures that lasted nearly ten years, Brian de Palma took over the directorial reins and cast two time academy award winning actress Hillary Swank and a strong ensemble cast; Scarlet Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, current Noir interpreter, Josh Hartnett and Mia Kirshner as the victimized Black Dahlia. Much like the classic Film Noirs of the past, "The Black Dahlia" has many interesting individual moments, but lacks a cohesive narrative drive.
After seeing "Hollywoodland" last week, a blue print has been created for a fictional narrative based on a factual unsolved mystery. "Hollywoodland" presented three theories based on the death of George Reeves. "The Black Dahlia" presents an entangled plot and convoluted solution based on social inequality and racism. These theories overwhelm the narrative and one is left with hollow and false acting choices by character actors.
The best parts of "The Black Dahlia" references cinematic history. The old silent movie "The Man Who Laughs" figures predominantly as a clue and one sees the influence upon modern cinema with this Conrad Veidt classic. One sees the birth of the porno industry and how that decadence never changes, it is an industry that finds new victims, such as Elizabeth Short.