With a touch of murder, mystery, violence and a bit of sex, added with a tagline like this it is not hard to imagine why a viewer would be reeled in to The Black Dahlia. The film's trailer gives off the impression that the film is a murder mystery set in Los Angeles during the 1940s.
In reality, The Black Dahlia is a very confusing and jolting roller coaster ride of subplots that never quite get explained.
The main character, Bucky, is a former boxer turned police officer trying to find his way in the Los Angeles Police Department. To raise the morale of the city towards the police, the department decides to host a boxing match featuring Bucky and Lee.
Afterwards, Bucky and Lee become partners as well as friends. We learn that Lee has a girlfriend, Kay Lake, and a love triangle forms. With all of these different events going on I began to think to myself, "Wasn't this movie supposed to be about a murder?"
During an apparently normal stake out, Lee ends up killing two suspects while Bucky chases down a third member who got away. While this seemed unimportant, it becomes part of the very bad explanation that is one of The Black Dahlia's main explanations. Immediately following the arrests, Bucky and Lee arrive at the murder that is the inspiration for the film, which is conveniently located a block away.
Bucky and Lee are assigned to the case. After an autopsy we learn that the victim was Elizabeth Short, a starlet who was trying to make it in Tinsel Town. Bucky learns that she is connected to Madeleine Linscott, the daughter of a wealthy L.A. property owner.
Linscott swears her innocence and Bucky believes her and promises to keep silence about her knowing the victim and in return Bucky receives a special "favor."
What was going to be just a dinner out and hotel night stay became a dinner where we meet Madeleine's family. Viewers begin to realize that the whole Linscott family is a bit strange, especially the mother who is unstable to the point of insanity.
While this, too, seems a very odd point to add, Madeleine's family will play a big part in the end of the movie.
During this time, Lee becomes increasingly obsessed with the murder. One night Kay reveals to Bucky that Lee has gone off on his own to do a drug bust with some of his old connections. For some reason that we viewers never learn, Bucky finds this very important and runs off.
This only adds to the piling amount of unexplained subplots The Black Dahlia has to offer.
While I don't wish to spoil the ending for anyone who still wishes to see the movie, I will tell you that it doesn't make much sense. I personally believe a plot that had so much potential was ruined by this movie. It is an unwritten rule that in a murder mystery, all the possible suspects should be introduced within the first half hour of the movie.
The Black Dahlia murder wasn't even committed until at least 30-45 minutes into the movie. The only credit I can honestly give the film is that it was very well filmed, but overall does not supply us with all the answers that we need.