September 25, 2006 12:00 PM

Josh Hartnett, Hilary Swank, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart



The only tip of the hat you can extend to this bungled crime drama goes to the fedoras worn by its dapper male cast. But style only carries a movie so far. In Dahlia, detailed period clothes and sets—we’re in L.A. in 1947—can’t make up for an irritatingly labyrinthine plot and flat performances.

Lurchingly directed by Brian De Palma (the first Mission: Impossible), Dahlia is based on the novel by James Ellroy about a cop (Hartnett) investigating the real-life, still unsolved murder of would-be starlet Elizabeth Short. The deeper he digs, the higher up society’s ladder he finds suspects, including a seductive bisexual heiress (Swank).

As the hero, Hartnett barely registers, while Johansson coasts on her voluptuousness playing an ex-call girl. Swank works hard but is woefully miscast as a temptress. Tossing long Veronica Lake locks, she seems more like a girl with a hula skirt on her head than a sultry sexpot. (R)


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