Ellroy's prose crawls into characters' secret hearts and under the reader's skin, but its foetid horrors become kitschy here, the script too streamlined and the lead performances too shallow to dredge the story's depths.
Despite genius-level contributions from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and art director Dante Ferretti, the handsome film is almost abusively murky, trafficking in difficult-to-follow plot manipulations, arbitrary twists and mumbled dialogue.
Black Dahlia wilts from a surfeit of incident and a shortage of credibility, owing to a script by Josh Friedman that eventually turns to soap and performances that approach the hilarity of a Guy Maddin melodrama.
Brian De Palma spent three years struggling to get The Black Dahlia made, which helps explain why the movie has the feel of something that was left in the oven too long: It's both overcooked and undernourishing.
Despite some amusing distractions, watching the big picture coalesce is not unlike watching someone complete a jigsaw puzzle. It all comes together eventually, but you already saw the image on the box.
This fictionalized tale of two Los Angeles detectives assigned to the gruesome 1940s murder of a real-life wannabe starlet begins as a slow but intriguing character study that gradually unravels into a turgid mess.
Since The Black Dahlia more or less tells the story of an actress, a heinously murdered one at that, it makes sense that the first thing you notice about this so-so adaptation of James Ellroy's novel is the shoddy acting.