The Black Dahlia
starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Mia Kirschner
screenplay by Josh Friedman
directed by Brian De Palma
Set in 1947 Los Angeles and inspired by the real murder of a woman named Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia is nevertheless based on a novel by James Ellroy. The film opens with the “Zoot Suit” wars between battling gangs of naval servicemen and zoot suits. I know what a zoot suit was, but it is probably a novelty for most movie watchers these days. (Incidentally, Michael J. Fox, playing Marty McFly in Back to the Future I, made a humorous reference to a zoot suit if your ears were quick enough to catch it.) Josh Harnett narrates his own story, like an old radio police show, or a film noir. He tracks down a gruesome killer while experiencing personal turmoil in his private life as he discovers more of the shady side of his partner. Josh Hartnett doesn’t feel like a great actor to me yet, but he’s getting there. He does very well in this film, but Hilary Swank and Scarlett Johansson easily steal his scenes. In many ways - as a dark, 1940s-era murder mystery - The Black Dahlia somewhat resembles the John Travolta film Lonely Hearts which I watched recently and enjoyed.