'Black Dahlia' Best Thing in Flick ... and She's Dead

Are you having trouble sleeping at night? Do you toss and turn, count sheep and nothing helps you put your tired eyes and body to rest?

Well, fear not. Coming to a theater near you is "The Black Dahlia," starring Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson and, oops, I forget who else. That's how memorable this film is.

Thank goodness for IMDB.com. Let's see, oh yeah, Aaron Eckhart and Mia Kirshner.

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Now, there's nothing wrong with this cast. They're all solid actors, don't get me wrong. But being solid in a movie that's as loosey-goosey as this one doesn't count for much.

Every time I thought the movie was going to end, they dragged me back in, with yet another angle featuring a drab Hartnett in the driver's seat.


Directed by the great Brian De Palma ("Scarface") from a story adapted by James Ellroy's book, "The Black Dahlia" is yet another "Hollywoodland"-type period piece, taking liberties with a mysterious, unsolved death.

This time the story revolves around the true-life gruesome murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, whose mutilated body was discovered by a woman pushing a stroller back in Hollywood's heyday — when cops wore stylish hats and ties and women wore gorgeous gowns while lounging barefoot in their homes.

And oh, everyone smoked. If you didn't know that, De Palma makes sure to put a cigarette in every scene.

Mia Kirshner, who superbly plays "The Black Dahlia," the troubled woman with stars in her eyes, rivals Ben Affleck's troubled George Reeves character in the aforementioned "Hollywoodland." If only she had more screen time.

With her touching vulnerability and frankly better acting than most of the other principals, a better movie might have seen Kirshner playing Short before she was murdered. Couple that with the wildly dysfunctional and extremely hilarious characters who make up the Linscotts (Swank's character's family), and you have yourself an engaging movie.

Instead, we have L.A. tough cops Bleichart (Hartnett) and Blanchard (Eckhart) as Fire and Ice, two ex-boxers turned detectives partnered up as a publicity stunt by the image-conscious LAPD.

Together they have less chemistry as partners than real-life couple Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn had in that "romantic comedy" called "The Break-Up."

De Palma also makes painstaking efforts to create some graphic scenes of death, from the head-turning and eye-squinting scene where Short's cheeks are sliced open to create a clown's smile, to a head-first crash into a lobby fountain after a fall from several floors up.

The movie is funny where it's not supposed to be. Swank does her best Cate Blanchett-as-Katharine Hepburn impression, and the dialogue that is supposed to justify Eckhart's and Johansson's bizarre behavior is confusing at best.

Keeping it Reel?

The best thing I can say about "The Black Dahlia" is that the costumes, sets and cinematography are all amazing.

That, and Johansson and Swank's hair. Awesome hair.

And oh yeah — it's a great remedy for insomnia. And at $10 a seat, cheaper than Ambien.

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