THE BLACK DAHLIA
The opening sequence of Brian De Palma's L.A. noir The Black Dahlia is so busily choreographed that, at first, you think it has to be some sort of put-on. A melee involving a street full of cops and sailors in downtown Los Angeles circa 1946, the balletic, slow-motion punching and flailing is orchestrated within an inch of its life; nothing about it seems real, but it's so dazzlingly executed that you hardly care. But with Josh Hartnett's ersatz tough-guy narration droning away, it quickly becomes clear that the scene isn't meant to be funny. It isn't comedy that De Palma's going after here but stylization, and as The Black Dahlia progresses, it's obvious that the director doesn't have the cast or screenwriter required to give his baroque touches a context. A few nastily enjoyable moments aside, the film is dour, dull, and confusing, enlivened only by a few zesty supporting portrayals and whatever directorial wit De Palma can bring to it.