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The Black Dahlia

Brian De Palma’s fictionalized tale of two Los Angeles detectives assigned to the gruesome 1940s murder of a real-life wannabe starlet begins as a slow but intriguing character study that gradually unravels into a turgid mess.

Like so many De Palma pictures, the convoluted story gets choked amid the flash and flourishes of the filmmaker’s visual excess, and characters who start out promisingly idiosyncratic become caricatures by the end. Adapted from James Ellroy’s noir mystery thriller, the movie stars Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as cops hunting for the psycho who killed and mutilated a young actress (Mia Kirshner) then cut her in half in a notorious unsolved Hollywood homicide. Hilary Swank plays a femme fatale and Scarlett Johansson co-stars as a woman involved with both cops. Reviewed by David Germain, AP