Crime drama, rated R, 121 minutes

In 1940s LA, a budding actress, Elizabeth Short, was brutally murdered. She was beaten, literally sliced in half, internal organs removed, her mouth slashed from ear to ear. LA's Finest dedicated much manpower to the investigation, however, the murder remains to this day unsolved. It was coined the Black Dahlia murder. Novelist James Ellroy, became obsessed with this true story, and wrote the novel upon which this movie is based. He also wrote the novel on which the movie “LA Confidential” was based. LAC was my #1 film the year it was released. Black Dahlia will not be my #1 film in 2006.

Directed by Brian de Palma (“Scarface,” “Carrie,” “Casualties of War,” “Untouchables,” MI 1), the movie looked great. The scenery is vintage 40s LA; MacArthur Park, City Hall and Hancock Park all look fantastic. The costumes are exceptional and evoke that time frame. Created by Jenny Beayan she previously did the costumes for “Gosford Park,” “Ever After,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Remains of the Day,” “Howard’s End,” and many more. Scarlett in cream cashmere is memorable.

The cast cannot be criticized, with Josh Hartnett (“Sin City,” “Virgin Suicides”), Scarlett Johansson (“Scoop,” “Match Point,” “Lost in Translation”), Aaron Eckhart (“Thank you for Smoking,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Nurse Betty”), and Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Boys Don't Cry”).

This movie is labeled film noir at its best. I beg to differ. Producing and creating film noir is not as easy as it seems. There were 17 producers on The Black Dahlia. They did not get it right. The lone writer of this movie, Josh Friedman, previously wrote “War of the Worlds” with Tom Cruise, not a typical film to commence your film noir writing career. The writing was not up to the talent of the actors or the director and not up to the standards of true film noir, circa 1940s.

The movie is a bit long. It drags. Its convoluted plot twists and turns so much it is easy to get lost in the threads. You really do not care what happens to whom. You just want it to end.

Film noir exploded onto the movie scene in 1941. “The Maltese Falcon,” “Double Indemnity,” “The Big Sleep” (1946), “Anatomy of a Murder,” “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Laura,” “Touch of Evil” and “The Long Goodbye” are true film noir. Film noir always involves the cynical and violent detective, the criminally beautiful femme fatale and the underworld bad guys set in Chicago or LA or wherever there are killings, bloodbaths and intrigue. Film noir is Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Fred MacMurray, Dana Andrews, Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford, and Barbara Stanwyck.

Film noir does not bring to mind The Black Dahlia. Dahlia is a whiter, diluted shade of pale grey noir.

Out of 5, I rate this movie a 2 1/2.