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.”