By Kirven Blount
Updated January 09, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
The Black Dahlia, Hilary Swank, ...
Credit: Black Dahlia: Rolf Konow

It’s dangerous to forget that at the heart of this relentlessly sensationalized murder case lies the death of a human being. The Black Dahlia, Brian De Palma’s film version of James Ellroy’s literary take on the gruesome killing is gorgeous to look at and exhaustively wrought, but why does Elizabeth Short’s misery need to be dressed up yet again for our entertainment? Josh Hartnett is workmanlike but skin deep, and Johansson is listless in a part that calls for mercury. While femme fatale Hilary Swank and Mia Kirshner (as Short) acquit themselves well, Fiona Shaw’s turn as a powerful L.A. matriarch should be instantly enshrined in the Al Pacino scenery-chewing Hall of Fame. EXTRAS In the unfortunately titled ”The DePalma Touch Presented by Volkswagon,” Johansson says that ”it’s interesting to see how people become attracted to” brutality and ”hopefully this will feed that hunger.” Another sponsor-free doc reveals that it is De Palma’s voice abusing Kirshner (as Short) in screen test footage, a scene that producer Art Linson says ”makes Elizabeth Short a real human person” such that ”killing this one is horrible.” She was already a human person, and her death was already horrible enough. C

The Black Dahlia

  • Movie
  • R
  • 119 minutes
  • Brian De Palma