September 24, 2006
The Black Dahlia
A loose and sloppily assembled L.A. noir, which compares inevitably and unfavorably to the superior movie adaptation of a James Ellroy novel, L.A. Confidential. Director Brian De Palma gets a pass on the perfect style and atmosphere, and all the roles were well cast, with the exception of Josh Hartnett, who simply doesn't have the gravitas for the part. The overly-elaborate plot and subplots (a trademark of Ellroy novels) are tangled together so we don't know which storyline we're supposed to care about. Is the Black Dahlia case merely a Macguffin? Is the Bobby DeWitt story connected? Is the warrant case worth paying attention to? Why is Rose McGowan in the movie for one scene? Is k.d. lang's cameo supposed to be funny? Why does Detective Bleichert (Hartnett) single out Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank) out of a crowd? In L.A. Confidential, also based on a long and complex Ellroy novel, director Curtis Hanson and screenwriter Brian Helgeland made this kind of elaborate web easy to navigate. De Palma either doesn't know or can't be bothered to sort it out for us.