The Black Dahlia
Time Out says
In January 1947, the mutilated body of Hollywood wannabe Betty Short was found, severed at the waist, in an empty LA lot. Around this real-life case is spun a fictional web involving boxing rivals turned LAPD partners Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) – each increasingly obsessed with the case, each comforted by Lee’s girlfriend Kay (Scarlett Johansson) – and the powerful Linscott clan, including femme fatale Madeleine (Hilary Swank) and pill-popping mater Ramona (an eye-rolling, film-stealing Fiona Shaw).
Ellroy’s prose crawls into characters’ secret hearts and under the reader’s skin, but its foetid horrors become kitschy here, the script too streamlined and the lead performances too shallow to dredge the story’s depths. It’s a story in part about the cruel tension between the glamour myth and its ugly construction, but De Palma indulges the former: the burning cars in the opening riot scene are that bit too well-placed, and while there are impressive coups de cinéma – the long crane shot that discovers the corpse, an awkward social encounter shot in the first person, another staircase shoot-out homage (this time to ‘Vertigo’) – it’s hard to see how they serve the story. Only the introduction of screen-test footage of Short (Mia Kirshner) in conversation with a boorish off-screen producer, played by De Palma himself, exposes the needy self-delusion the film otherwise coddles.
Cast and crew