Daring 'Dahlia'

De Palma's direction shines, but noir script doesn't match his gifts

Review B-

September 15, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

At one point in The Black Dahlia, the three leads - Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as hotshot detective pals in the L.A.P.D., and Scarlett Johansson as the woman they love - watch an improbable revival of Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs, a mad silent-movie masterpiece. Adapted from Victor Hugo's novel, it derives a tingling romantic-masochistic allure from a man with a smile carved as punishment into his face. It's daring for director Brian De Palma to inject this movie into a pop entertainment; The Man Who Laughs, however great it is, remains a factor in mass culture only because Batman creator Bob Kane based the Joker on this woeful laughing man.

The Black Dahlia (Universal) Starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner. Directed by Brian De Palma. Rated R. Time 121 minutes.

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