Based on the novel by James Ellroy (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), THE BLACK DAHLIA stars Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as a pair of LAPD detectives assigned to the most notorious murder in Hollywood history. Director Brian De Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES) takes time to establish the relationship between Buddy Bleichert, Lee Blanchard, and their mutual love Kay (Scarlett Johanssen), before introducing the 1947 murder after which the film is named. In the haunting screen-tests left behind after her mysterious death, aspiring actress Elizabeth Short appears to want fame so badly, shell do anything to get it. Her pornographic film appearances, and a rumoured affair with narcissist heiress Madeleine Linscott (Hillary Swank), provide just two clues in a sea of confusion. THE BLACK DAHLIA crams every subplot from Ellroys novel into two hours, but only connects them towards the end of the movie. The screen-tests featuring a sadly desperate Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) are captivatingly filmed in gritty black-and-white. These scenes succeed in showing the industry ugliness most likely behind Elizabeth's death, while the rest of the film self-consciously strives to be noir through elaborate set design, dramatic camera angles, and narration taken straight from the book. If De Palmas goal was to make us examine our own voyeuristic fascination with murder, particularly the gruesome murder of a beautiful young woman, then he succeeds, because throughout a film invested in so many different storylines, Shorts remains the most interesting one.
Brian De Palma (SCARFACE) brings James Ellroy's novel to the screen, with Josh Hartnett (BLACK HAWK DOWN) and Aaron Eckhart (IN THE COMPANY OF MEN) starring as the two cops investigating the murder and mutilation of an aspiring actress.