McCarthy, Honeycutt on “Dahlia”

Chinatown it ain’t, not in any department,” says Variety critic Todd McCarthy about Brian De Palma‘s The Black Dahlia, which had its big world premiere several hours ago at the Venice Film Festival.
“Based on James Ellroy‘s estimable fictional account of what was, for 47 years, Los Angeles’ most notorious unsolved murder, this lushly rendered noir finds De Palma in fine visual fettle as he pulls off at least three characteristically eye-popping set pieces while trying, with mixed success, to keep some pretty cockeyed plotlines under control. A literally ripping good yarn is [ultimately] undercut by some lackluster performances and late-inning overripe melodrama.”
Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Honeycutt says that Dahlia “has the looks, smarts and attitude of a classic Brian De Palma/film noir thriller. During the first hour, the hope that the director has tapped into something really great mounts with each passing minute. Then, gradually, the feverish pulp imagination of James Ellroy, on whose novel Josh Friedman based his screenplay, feeds into De Palma’s dark side. The violence grows absurd, emotions get overplayed, and the film revels once too often in its gleeful depiction of corrupt, decadent old Los Angeles. Disappointingly, the film edges dangerously into camp. No, The Black Dahlia never quite falls into that black hole [but] the second half feels heavy and unfulfilled, potential greatness reduced to a good movie plagued with problems.”

15 thoughts on “McCarthy, Honeycutt on “Dahlia”

  1. Mr. Gittes on said:
  2. I can’t wait for this. Sounds like VINTAGE De Palma. I am already in the theater. Wish more hard-boiled noirs got made…too bad the vast majoirty of American audiences don’t care about that genre.

  3. I microsized it. √¢‚Ǩ≈ì…√¢‚ǨÀúThe Black Dahlia√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ covers familiar ground, both thematically and in its seductively tawdry atmosphere…. But ‘Chinatown’ it ain’t,…√¢‚Ǩ¬ù says Variety√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Todd McCarthy. “‘Black Dahlia’ has the looks, smarts and attitude of a classic Brian De Palma/film noir thriller…. Disappointingly, the film edges dangerously into camp. No, ‘Black Dahlia’ never quite falls into that black hole,” says HR√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Kirk Honeycutt. This movie sounds fun.

  4. Let’s restore one selective edit:
    //But “Chinatown” it ain’t, not in any department. ON ITS OWN LEVEL, HOWEVER, new pic generates a reasonable degree of intrigue, initially in the ambiguous relationship among tough L.A. homicide detectives Leland “Lee” Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), younger partner Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) — former boxers nicknamed “Fire” and “Ice”– and their voluptuous blond platonic ladyfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). What gives with this threesome isn’t revealed until later…//

  5. I microsized it. “…‘The Black Dahlia’ covers familiar ground, both thematically and in its seductively tawdry atmosphere…. But ‘Chinatown’ it ain’t,…” says Variety’s Todd McCarthy. “‘Black Dahlia’ has the looks, smarts and attitude of a classic Brian De Palma/film noir thriller…. Disappointingly, the film edges dangerously into camp. No, ‘Black Dahlia’ never quite falls into that black hole,” says HR’s Kirk Honeycutt. This movie sounds fun.

  6. I didn’t read the script, but I have always thought it was James Ellroy’s weakest book. The book is campy melodrama, so makes sense the movie is too. And that’s coming from a big James Ellroy fan. I was excited to hear it when De Palma came on board. Seemed a perfect fit. Looking forward to seeing the film.

  7. Chinatown is overrated. Robert Towne is not crazy about it either….even though his script is superb….it is the best thing about Chinatown.
    De Palma is a great director. Can’t wait.

  8. Campy melodrama indeed – wasn’t there a big subplot about filming pornos in Mexico? I can’t imagine that this will be a “faithful” adaptation of the book. Is this going to be a reverse-”Congo” – a campy source made into a serious film?

  9. There are some flat-out raves coming out as well. Emanuel Levy, whoever the hell that is, calls it a masterpiece.
    Then again, I remember a couple critics saying the same thing about Femme Fucking Fatale and that thing was terrible.

  10. Femme Fatale is a total masterpiece…pure cinema…visual storytelling. Ebert’s review is spot-on and one of his recent best. It’s a crime that more people haven’t seen that film. I have watched it over and over and keeps getting better and better. To each his own I guess.

  11. As a former DePalma fan, I thought FEMME FATALE was a godawful mess. Lesbian scene aside, of course.
    Actionman, you thought this film was a Masterpiece and you did MIAMI VICE.
    What’s next on your list, BEERFEST?

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