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"THE BLACK DAHLIA"
(2006) (Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Extreme Extreme Moderate Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Extreme Moderate Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Extreme Moderate Heavy Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Drama: 1940s era detectives try to figure out who murdered an aspiring actress.
PLOT:
It's the mid 1940s in Los Angeles, and cops turned amateur boxers Bucky Bleichert (JOSH HARTNETT) and Lee Blanchard (AARON ECKHART) have been teamed together as detectives. Bucky's the new guy in Lee's division, and there's talk that a sadistic pimp is about to released from prison, a point Lee doesn't want Bucky telling Lee's girlfriend, Kay Lake (SCARLETT JOHANSSON), due to her prior connection to the fiend.

While also working on another case involving a child rapist, the two detectives end up at the murder scene of Elizabeth "Betty" Short (MIA KIRSHNER), an aspiring actress who was beaten to death, cut in half, disemboweled, and sliced ear to ear. As Lee becomes obsessed with and tangled up by the multiple cases -- putting pressure on his relationship with Kay -- Bucky focuses on the actress' murder, with the press referring to her as "The Black Dahlia."

His investigation leads to his viewing of her previous audition clips for an unseen stag film director (voice of BRIAN DE PALMA) and her appearance in such shorts with fellow aspiring actress Lorna Mertz (JEMIMA ROOPER). That trail eventually leads to bisexual femme fatale Madeleine Linscott (HILARY SWANK) whose parents -- Emmett (JOHN KAVANAGH) and Ramona (FIONA SHAW) -- aren't exactly role models for mental stability.

With Lee progressively unraveling and Bucky ending up having flings with both Kay and Madeleine, the detective tries to figure out who murdered Betty and why.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Older teens may want to, as might anyone who's a fan of the director (Brian De Palma) or someone in the cast.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong violence, some grisly images, sexual content and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
Certain end-of-the-film character revelations are not included below to avoid spoilers:
  • JOSH HARTNETT plays a cop who becomes Lee's partner and strives to solve various criminal and murder cases, all while becoming increasingly attracted to Kay. He eventually ends up having sex with her (after Lee is out of the picture), while also doing the same with Madeleine. He smokes, drinks, uses profanity and beats up or kills others.
  • SCARLETT JOHANSSON plays Lee's girlfriend, a former hooker whom he saved from a sadistic pimp. She ends up having sex with Bucky (after Lee is out of the picture), smokes, and drinks.
  • AARON ECKHART plays Bucky's cop partner who becomes obsessed with various cases and criminals to the point that it drives him crazy. He uses some profanity, smokes, beats up some people, and is apparently addicted to Benzedrine.
  • HILARY SWANK plays a rich femme fatale who's experimented in lesbianism but ends up sleeping with Bucky as a bribe to keep her name out of the papers. She smokes, drinks and is seen ready to have sex with another man.
  • MIA KIRSHNER plays the murdered girl and aspiring actress who we see in film tests as well as a lesbian stag film.
  • FIONA SHAW plays Madeleine's hopped up and/or possibly demented mother who displays over-the-top antics and behavior.
  • JOHN KAVANAGH plays Madeleine's rich Scottish father who's full of himself.
  • JEMIMA ROOPER plays an aspiring actress who appears in a stag lesbian film with Betty.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a quick look at the content found in this suspense flick that's been rated R. Profanity consists of at least 19 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. Sexually explicit dialogue is present, as are several sexual encounters (lesbian and straight, with some of the latter fading out before the actual act) that show nudity (breasts and butts), some movement and include related sounds. A butchered woman's fully nude body is seen and another woman is seen in her undergarments.

    Violence includes several murders (via gunfire, being sliced, a bad fall, etc.) and the grotesque visual results of a woman's butchered body (cut in half, among other things, including her face being sliced up). Other fighting is seen, as is a suicide via gunshot, while there's some hard boxing violence. Those scenes and others have varying amounts of bloody/gory results, while they and other moments of potential peril may be unsettling or suspenseful to viewers (particularly those sensitive to such material).

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while some smoke throughout the film and/or drink, and there's talk of "hop-heads" and drug use/abuse. If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there's some camera movement from time to time in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Bucky and Lee drink.
  • Kay, Lee, and Bucky have wine with dinner and Kay pours some champagne for them.
  • Kay carries bottles of beer for Lee, Bucky and herself at a boxing match.
  • People have champagne on New Year's Eve, including Lee.
  • Bucky and others drink in a lesbian bar.
  • There's talk of a boxer dying of a heroin overdose.
  • Bucky, Madeleine, and her family have wine with dinner, and her mother appears to be intoxicated, drugged up, and/or demented.
  • Madeleine comments on her mother being on prescription pills so that she won't be considered a "hop-head."
  • Kay has a nearly empty glass of wine by her.
  • Bucky states that Lee is hopped up on Benzedrine (we once seem the latter downing some pills). He then hears about a pending drug deal (involving Lee and a suspect that cop wants dead) and goes to stop it.
  • Kay and Bucky have wine with dinner.
  • Kay pours a drink for Bucky and herself, but they don't have any.
  • There's more talk of "hop-heads."
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • While boxing each other, Lee has some blood on his face and we see some on Bucky's arm and chest (although that may be Lee's). Bucky then decides to throw the fight (for money for his senile dad) and thus allows Lee to pummel him. One hard shot to the face leaves it bloody, another knocks out his bloody mouth-guard, and a third sends a thick spray of blood and some teeth down onto a table and some papers on it.
  • From a distance, we see Betty's body on the street (no details visible at this time).
  • Commenting about Betty (who we don't yet see), it's mentioned that she was cut ear to ear, and was disemboweled. We then see a very brief and partial view of her bloody face and hand.
  • We see an overhead view of Betty's fully nude, dead body in the morgue (she's been cut completely in half, her face cut ear to ear and there's blood on her bare breasts, while her skin is otherwise discolored). There's talk that she was beaten to death and then disemboweled (and had her reproductive organs removed) as well as bled dry.
  • We hear that a criminal is dead and then see his clothed body (face up) in the rain (no blood). We then see the results of his work: A dead child with a bloody hole in the forehead and some blood nearby, as well as the body of a dead man nearby.
  • Lee's knuckles are bloody from hitting someone (seen later).
  • Bucky approaches a suspect with his gun drawn and then punches that man. A fight breaks out, a person is shot (presumably dead) and Bucky then spots another cop several stories up the stairwell who doesn't see the shadow of a figure approaching him from behind with piano wire (or something similar). Bucky alerts that cop and then starts to race up the circular stairwell (many flights), but that person gets the cop around the neck and another assailant then shows up, pops a switchblade and then slashes the cop's throat (with bloody results). That cop and the person with the piano wire then end up falling over the railing and down the inside of the stairwell where they crash into a fountain or something similar at the bottom (many stories down), and the assailant's face smashes into something hard and his head essentially explodes (seen briefly, but with very bloody/gory results). When Bucky gets to their initial position, the second assailant hits him over the head, knocking him out.
  • We see a dead man's face that's very bloody.
  • We see some old, dried blood on some tile.
  • Bucky searches for the spot where Betty was murdered, breaks and enters a shed, and finds a bloodstained mattress on the floor.
  • We see a flashback to a person hitting a young woman with a bat (that then has blood on it) and then a knife being used to cut the woman's face (with very bloody results).
  • An adult daughter and her father watch as the mother/wife commits suicide by shooting herself in the head (with bloody results on the drapes behind her).
  • Bucky shoots a killer in the head, and we see the deadly impact as well as the subsequent growing amount of blood on the floor.
  • Bucky briefly has a vision of Betty's body that was cut in half.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The film's various criminals and villains obviously have extreme cases of bad attitudes.
  • Lee refers to someone not there as a "Jew boy."
  • We hear that a suspect by the name of Nash rapes children and beats senior citizens.
  • A person uses the term "coloreds" (about black people).
  • Betty's callous father shows no grief over her death, implying that she was quite promiscuous (saying she believed in quantity over the quality of her men).
  • The terms "bull dykes" and "lez" are used about lesbians.
  • About the stuffed former pet dog (with a newspaper in its mouth) that Bucky sees in her family's house, Madeleine says that was the result of her father learning he had made his first million dollars and wanted to remember that time, so he shot the dog (the act is not seen) to preserve the moment.
  • Madeleine's mother is a snob.
  • It's implied that Lee stole money while on the job and hid it in his place.
  • Madeleine's mother admits to having had an affair in the past.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and "Blood/Gore" may be unsettling, suspenseful, or scary to some viewers, especially those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • While on a stakeout, Lee has Bucky duck for cover as he shoots a suspect who goes down on the sidewalk. Another then shoots at the car before fleeing (Bucky catches, tackles and cuffs him), while Lee continues in a shootout with at least another man. When Bucky returns to the scene, we see a dead man on the interior steps.
  • Commenting about Betty (who we don't yet see), it's mentioned that she was cut ear to ear, and was disemboweled. We then see a very brief and partial view of her bloody face and hand.
  • We see an overhead view of Betty's fully nude, dead body in the morgue (she's been cut completely in half, her face cut ear to ear and there's blood on her bare breasts, while her skin is otherwise discolored). There's talk that she was beaten to death and then disemboweled (and had her reproductive organs removed) as well as bled dry.
  • There's a brief earthquake in the cops' headquarters, but no one panics.
  • Bucky approaches a suspect with his gun drawn and then punches that man. A fight breaks out, a person is shot (presumably dead) and Bucky then spots another cop several stories up the stairwell who doesn't see the shadow of a figure approaching him from behind with piano wire (or something similar). Bucky alerts that cop and then starts to race up the circular stairwell (many flights), but that person gets the cop around the neck and another assailant then shows up, pops a switchblade and then slashes the cop's throat (with bloody results). That cop and the person with the piano wire then end up falling over the railing and down the inside of the stairwell where they crash into a fountain or something similar at the bottom (many stories down), and the assailant's face smashes into something hard and his head essentially explodes (seen briefly, but with very bloody/gory results). When Bucky gets to their initial position, the second assailant hits him over the head, knocking him out.
  • We see a clothed body being put into a crematorium (and see another man's clothed body already in there).
  • Bucky searches for the spot where Betty was murdered, breaks and enters a shed at night, and finds a bloodstained mattress on the floor.
  • We see a flashback to a person hitting a young woman with a bat (that then has blood on it) and then a knife being used to cut the woman's face (with very bloody results).
  • An adult daughter and her father watch as the mother/wife commits suicide by shooting herself in the head (with bloody results on the drapes behind her).
  • Bucky shoots a killer in the head, and we see the deadly impact as well as the subsequent growing amount of blood on the floor.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Knives/Molotov cocktail: Carried and/or used to threaten, wound or kill others and/or cause property damage. See "Violence" for details.
  • We see Bucky's senile father shooting at pigeons with a pellet gun (we see a few dead birds in the alley). When Bucky enters his house, he aims that gun at him, but Bucky takes it away from him.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "F*ck you," "Are you f*cking nuts?" "Pretty f*cking tight," "Keep your f*cking panties on" (be patient), "Hollywood will f*ck you and no one else will," "She f*cking lied," "Don't f*cking lie to me," "F*ck me" (nonsexual), "F*cker," "A sick f*ck," "Sh*t-birds," "Enough horse-sh*t," "Sh*t-kicker," (what sounded like) "Weenie waggers," "Male whore," "You stupid slut," "Greaser," "This is nuts," "Jew boys," "It sends me," "Canvas bag" (for a boxer who took many punches), "What the hell are you doing here?" "Tighter than a crab's ass," "He's gone squirrelly," "Bull dykes," "Lez" (lesbian), "Rich bitch," "Don't jerk me off" (nonsexual), "Piss," what sounded like "Nigger," "Stupid son of a bitch," "Shut up" and "Balls" (testicles).
  • We see Bucky's senile father shooting at pigeons with a pellet gun (we see a few dead birds in the alley). When Bucky enters his house, he aims that gun at him, but Bucky takes it away from him.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • An extreme amount of ominous, suspenseful, and overwrought dramatic music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • A lesbian singer performs a nightclub type song that includes the repeated lyric "Young love for sale."
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 19 "f" words (5 used sexually as is the term "get it"), 6 "s" words (2 possibly in German), 1 slang term using female genitals ("c*nt"), a possible one using male ones ("weenie"), 1 for breasts ("t*tty"), 4 hells, 1 ass, 1 damn, 1 S.O.B, 3 uses of "Jesus Christ," 2 of "G-damn" and 1 use each of "Christ," "God," "My God," "Oh God" and "Oh Jesus."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A comment is made about "weenie waggers" (or something like that), but we didn't catch the context (if sexual or not).
  • A person uses the sexual term "hard on for" in a nonsexual context.
  • About something, Kay suggestively tells Bucky, "We'd have to sleep together for that."
  • We see Lee and Bucky shirtless as they box.
  • Kay shows a little cleavage at a party.
  • We see some miscellaneous hookers on the street.
  • We hear that Kay was once a hooker for a pimp, but that Lee saved her when he busted that man.
  • Bucky gazes up the stairs at Kay (at the door to the bathroom) where she's in her bra and period panties (large and not revealing). He then sees the large initial-based scars "B.D." etched into her lower back. She knows he's looking at her, but doesn't seem to mind.
  • We see an overhead view of Betty's fully nude, dead body in the morgue (pubic hair, bare breasts, but she's discolored and has been cut in half so the view is not overtly sexual).
  • Betty's callous father shows no grief over her death, implying that she was quite promiscuous (saying she believed in quantity over the quality of her men).
  • Bucky spots Kay up at the top of the stairs again in the bathroom door, with her robe open showing her panties and cleavage, but she then slams the door shut.
  • An actress comments on having seen Betty talking to a lesbian, and we later see Bucky investigating bartenders at various lesbian bars, including one where an elaborate stage show features a lesbian singer (K.D. Lang) and some scantly clad female backup dancers. They have small straps over their otherwise bare breasts, and cavort in a titillating, sexual fashion, including two passionately kissing on stage.
  • Madeleine shows cleavage on several occasions in different outfits.
  • Madeleine suggestively asks Bucky what she needs to do to keep her name out of the papers (suggesting sex for silence on his part).
  • Madeleine's mother comments on Mexican prostitutes exposing themselves in windows and there's a comment about "male whores."
  • We see a caricature-based sketch that Madeleine's younger sister has made of Madeleine and Bucky that shows them in the rear entry sex position (cartoon but no explicit nudity).
  • Madeleine takes Bucky to a motel where they passionately kiss, he nuzzles her neck, and her top comes off, revealing her bra. The scene ends and we next see them in bed, post-sex, with her head on his bare chest (she caresses his chest as we see her bare back).
  • A film clip of Betty shows some of her cleavage.
  • Bucky spots a young woman in a short skirt that shows a lot of leg.
  • A young woman (Lorna) tells Bucky that she thought she was pregnant, needed money, and thus agreed to earn $200 to appear in a stag film. We then see footage of her and another woman in that film. One dances about scantly clad, while the other (Betty) lies on a bed and caresses her own, bra-covered breasts. We then see the two passionately kissing, some sexual cavorting (including views of both of their bare breasts such as when one is lying on the other (her front to the other's back). We then see a shot of them standing (nude) and Lorna sucking on some sort of dildo before apparently using it (anally or vaginally) on Betty from behind (Betty's expression looks pained from this, but we only see the rhythmic movement, not the actual insertion).
  • We see Bucky and Madeleine lounging on a bed, and she's shirtless, but we don't see any nudity.
  • Madeleine admits to Bucky that she and Betty once made love, just to see what it was like. He gets upset about this and says, "You stupid slut" as he exits.
  • A man states that he "f*cked a big t*ttied c*nt."
  • A poster for a stag film advertises exotic girls, lustful men, and titillating adventure, while we see a woman in a bikini or bra top on it.
  • Betty chats with the unseen director (we only hear his voice) on the set of a film, saying she doesn't know if he's experienced something she has. We hear him laugh and then jokingly states that yeah, he "gets it" five times a night.
  • Kay and Bucky passionately kiss, he nuzzles her neck, they start to undress and he yanks a tablecloth out from the items on top of it so that he can lower her down onto the table (he partially gets on top of her, and her bare leg is up along his side, but the scene then fades out).
  • Bucky picks up Madeleine, they passionately kiss and she has her legs wrapped around his waist (both are clothed). We then see them in bed post-sex, with her lying face down (we see her bare back and the top of her bare butt) and then see his full rear nudity as he gets up. Later, when he's clothed and standing, she comes up to him, kisses him, and puts her hand on his clothed crotch.
  • We see a flashback to a man watching the above lesbian stag film being made (we see the two bare-breasted actresses).
  • Madeleine's younger sister asks Bucky if he came to pay his respects (regarding a death in the family) "or f*ck my sister."
  • We see Madeleine going to a motel with a solider (for sex), but Bucky holds a gun on that man and makes him leave.
  • Madeleine confronts Bucky, saying he'd rather "f*ck" than kill her, but doesn't have the guts to do either. She then says if not for her, he wouldn't have had "the balls to f*ck your partner's girl." About Kay, she then says he doesn't "f*ck" her anymore because "you want to f*ck me."
  • SMOKING
  • Bucky smokes more than 10 times, Lee and Kay each smoke at least 5 times, Madeleine around 5 times, and many minor and miscellaneous characters smoke (cigarettes and cigars).
  • We see a large cigarette ad on a billboard.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Bucky must contend with his senile father.
  • Betty's callous father shows no grief over her death, implying that she was quite promiscuous (saying she believed in quantity over the quality of her men).
  • We hear that Lee had a sister who was murdered in the past.
  • Madeleine's mother admits to having had an affair in the past.
  • An adult daughter and her father watch as the mother/wife commits suicide by shooting herself in the head (with bloody results on the drapes behind her).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The real life murder case.
  • Detectives, their work, and their personal lives and/or history sometimes interfering with their investigation.
  • Women appearing in pornography to make money.
  • Lesbians.
  • We see a clothed body being put into a crematorium (and see another man's clothed body already in there).
  • The comment that nothing stays buried forever.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We see riots on the street between military men and civilians, including people striking others with poles, one throwing a Molotov cocktail into a car (we see other burning cars) and one throwing another person through a plate glass window. Bucky then comes across Lee hitting various guys in an alley and then joins the fray, punching several others, as Lee continues to do so as well.
  • We see Bucky's senile father shooting at pigeons with a pellet gun (we see a few dead birds in the alley). When Bucky enters his house, his father aims that gun at him, but Bucky takes it away from him.
  • Lee punches a sparring partner hard in the face in the ring.
  • While boxing each other, Lee has some blood on his face and we see some on Bucky's arm and chest (although that may be Lee's). Bucky then decides to throw the fight (for money for his senile dad) and thus allows Lee to pummel him. One hard shot to the face leaves it bloody, another knocks out his bloody mouth-guard, and a third sends a thick spray of blood and some teeth down onto a table and some papers on it.
  • Lee and Bucky pin a suspect to the floor while apprehending him.
  • While on a stakeout, Lee has Bucky duck for cover as he shoots a suspect who goes down on the sidewalk. Another then shoots at the car before fleeing (Bucky catches, tackles and cuffs him), while Lee continues in a shootout with at least another man. When Bucky returns to the scene, we see a dead man on the interior steps.
  • We see an overhead view of Betty's fully nude, dead body in the morgue (she's been cut completely in half, her face cut ear to ear and there's blood on her bare breasts, while her skin is otherwise discolored). There's talk that she was beaten to death and then disemboweled (and had her reproductive organs removed) as well as bled dry.
  • About the stuffed former pet dog (with a newspaper in its mouth) that Bucky sees in her family's house, Madeleine says that was the result of her father learning he had made his first million dollars and wanted to remember that time, so he shot the dog (the act is not seen) to preserve the moment.
  • Bucky chases after, catches, and subdues a young woman (in a park) as he thinks she might know something about the case.
  • We hear that a criminal is dead and then see his clothed body (face up) in the rain (no blood). We then see the results of his work: A dead child with a bloody hole in the forehead and some blood nearby, as well as the body of a dead man nearby.
  • Discovering that Lee has done something wrong (his knuckles are bloody), Bucky repeatedly punches him in the face and gut.
  • Bucky approaches a suspect with his gun drawn and then punches that man. A fight breaks out, a person is shot (presumably dead) and Bucky then spots another cop several stories up the stairwell who doesn't see the shadow of a figure approaching him from behind with piano wire (or something similar). Bucky alerts that cop and then starts to race up the circular stairwell (many flights), but that person gets the cop around the neck and another assailant then shows up, pops a switchblade and then slashes the cop's throat (with bloody results). That cop and the person with the piano wire then end up falling over the railing and down the inside of the stairwell where they crash into a fountain or something similar at the bottom (many stories down), and the assailant's face smashes into something hard and his head essentially explodes (seen briefly, but with very bloody/gory results). When Bucky gets to their initial position, the second assailant hits him over the head, knocking him out.
  • We see a flashback to an above shooting where Lee shoots a criminal standing on the sidewalk.
  • Trying to get some suspects to talk, Bucky shoots an antique vase, then a statue, and finally an expensive chandelier, causing it to fall to the floor and break (he also aims his gun at those suspects).
  • We see a flashback to a person hitting a young woman with a bat (that then has blood on it) and then a knife being used to cut the woman's face (with very bloody results).
  • An adult daughter and her father watch as the mother/wife commits suicide by shooting herself in the head (with bloody results on the drapes behind her).
  • We see Madeleine going to a motel with a solider (for sex), but Bucky holds a gun on that man and makes him leave.
  • We see a flashback to Lee punching an older man.
  • Bucky shoots a killer in the head, and we see the deadly impact as well as the subsequent growing amount of blood on the floor.



  • Reviewed September 11, 2006/ Posted September 15, 2006

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [American Made] [Battle of the Sexes] [Flatliners] [A Question of Faith] [Stronger]

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