The Black Dahlia (2006)
Although he has returned to the noir genre and/or the early to mid 19th century again and again throughout his career, I have always found Brian De Palma at his most proficient when he's set his sight on other things. There's no doubt that De Palma is a gifted director, and he has versatility, but he also has a knack of getting stuck in unsubtle screenplays, like this one from Josh Friedman (whose lacklustre resume includes only The War of the Worlds prior to this). The aspiration of The Black Dahlia is painfully obvious from the word go, but through De Palma's sense of visuals it stays interesting and slightly seductive for an hour or so. The real problems arise only when the script tries to get smart and De Palma can no longer control it. Like other stories by James Ellroy, it gets pretentious, and like many other neo-noir films it gets messy and insignificant. It doesn't help much that the acting is completely forgettable, with Hartnett trying desperately to surpass his range and Swank putting in another exhibit why her two Academy Awards will remain a mystery more interesting than The Black Dahlia for generations to come.