The Black Dahlia | Chicago Reader

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Director Brian De Palma will probably take the rap for this tepid noir, but the real culprits are Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson, red-hot lovers in life but (as ever) gorgeous stiffs on-screen. Adapted from the novel by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), the movie uses the notorious unsolved 1947 murder of a drifting young woman as the historical backdrop for a love triangle involving a hotheaded police detective (Aaron Eckhart), his sex-kitten girlfriend (Johansson), and his circumspect partner on the job (Hartnett). Hilary Swank is sorely miscast as a decadent rich girl, but Mia Kirshner gives a haunting performance as murder victim Elizabeth Short, whose black-and-white screen tests (quite fictional) deliver the emotional darkness so lacking in the rest of the movie. Fans of the director's cinematic homages will be pleased by a Touch of Evil crane shot that masterfully foreshadows a subsequent plot twist. R, 121 min.

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