The Black Dahlia

When the body of actress Betty Short is found in a ditch, homicide detectives Bucky (Josh Hartnett) and Lee (Aaron Eckhart) investigate.  After watching her last film, they become obsessed with her and finding the killer.  Madeleine (Hilary Swank) and Kay (Scarlett Johansson), two women who put a different spell on the men, add further to the red herrings that threaten to consume them. 
This fictionalised account of a true story makes the most of the smart penmanship of writer James Ellroy.  His craftsmanship of depicting flawed heroes living shadowy existences matches the unique visual style of Director Brian De Palma.  As the two detectives view the victims’ final film, they attempt to find clues in every inch of the frame feeling she is reaching out to them from beyond the grave.  Bucky in particular becomes infatuated with her image whilst attempting to control a desire which will never be satisfied.
Brian De Palma effectively brings to life 1940s era Los Angeles, showing off the clean streets that hide a dark interior.  De Palma’s films have usually paid homage to previous genres with his tribute to crime noir films being a pleasure to watch.  At times, his keen sense of visual trickery does get in the way of telling the story, as the subplot involving Eckert’s character prolongs an already complicated script.  With his films however, there is always a twinkle in his characters’ eyes, allowing the audience to join in the mystery, no matter how absurd it may become.
Josh Hartnett as Bucky continues his growth into mature roles. His character is a newcomer to the police and he not only has to learn to trust his colleagues but also his judgement.  His relationship with Lee becomes sorely tested once the murder case becomes more muddled with each men reacting differently to the strange horrors they face.  Eckhart makes a good foil for Hartnett’s rookie, with Swank and Johansson making for very duplicitous femme fatales. 
The Black Dahlia isn’t a perfect film - the over-acting by some tends to veer the film towards high camp.  The entertainment factor is high however, with various twists being genuinely surprising.  Despite the flaws, the glorious set design and interesting story telling techniques help make this a mystery audiences will want to solve.
Rating out of 10:   7

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