A fictional fever-dream mystery crafted loosely from the notorious still-unsolved 1947 murder of wayward wannabe starlet Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) the tale teams two rising L.A. police detectives whose bone-crunching boxing bout give them political juice—Mr. Ice cool young Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Mr. Fire hotheaded veteran Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). Both men become embroiled in and obsessed with the sick horrific crime even as Dwight falls hard for Lee’s victimized world-weary live-in love Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson)—with Lee’s unspoken approval: he’s too busy spiraling downward into a psychotic fixation with solving the murder having previously lost his sister to foul play. But Dwight’s also led astray by the more carnal temptations of voracious Madeline Sprague (Hilary Swank) the daughter of a bizarre high-society family with her own shadowy connections to the Dahlia. Sordid subplots abound simmering and swirling as in death the Black Dahlia threatens to suck everyone into an ever-widening abyss. Not entirely an epic of miscasting the film nevertheless falls short finding performers to essay Ellroy’s compelling cast: Hartnett demonstrates more depth here than in most previous efforts but comes fathoms short of the necessary mix of drive and angst to suit the complex role. Although she physically conveys a maturity beyond her years Johansson shows none of the wounded wisdom of the novel’s Kay—her seductive ethereal air would with an ebony dye job have served her far better as the Dahlia herself a cipher who becomes in the eyes of those obsessed with her whatever they dream her to be. Conversely Kirshner delivers in that elusive spectral role but the been-around-the-block-one-too-many times faded glint in her eyes would have made her a much more involving Kay. Eckhart has the spit and polish of a political-minded cop down pat but lacks the self-destructive inner fire that fuels the façade. Swank is mostly delightful by degrees—many of her choices are intriguing occasionally outrageous and give her femme fatale needed dimensions but others are overindulged. There are certainly macabre grand guignol moments in the story that make it more akin to Sunset Boulevard than its more obvious comparison Ellroy’s own L.A. Confidential but De Palma—never known for his subtlety—handles them with such an overt determined campiness any wry irony is wrung from them. The result is more of a parody—indeed an unflattering caricature—than a modern commentary on classic noir style. Add in his ceaseless camera-swooping swipes from Hitchcock and his ongoing fixation with meaningless gore—ham-fisted homages and hemorrhaging hemoglobin to ape Ellroy’s alliterative gossip-rag riffs—that distract from the intensity of the source material and all that remains is a bloody shame.
“A heel should be about SEX!” yells Lola played with electrifying force by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Based on a true story Kinky Boots takes a look at an old-school shoe factory in the quiet burgh of Northampton England. Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) inherits the place when his father passes away--but the factory in financial straits. It is simply outdated. So on the advice of one of his employees Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts) Charlie decides to think out of the box so to speak and finds a niche market selling over-the-top but sturdy footwear to transvestites and drag queens. But he needs vision since most of the factory’s workers are used to making men’s loafers. That’s where Lola one of London’s premier drag queens comes in. She has all the flair and design ideas Charlie is looking for--but bringing her to conservative Northampton proves to be a bit tricky. That is until everyone gets to know Lola. Ejiofor is definitely an actor to watch out for. Since making an indelible impression in Stephen Frears’ gritty drama Dirty Pretty Things the British-born actor has been quietly stealing scenes in almost every movie he is in--from playing a deliciously evil drug lord in Four Brothers to Denzel Washington’s sparring partner in Inside Man. But in Kinky Boots Ejiofor doesn’t have to steal any scenes; he IS the movie as the tough but kindhearted Lola. The rest of the cast does a very nice job don’t get me wrong. Edgerton (King Arthur) is particularly endearing as the son desperately trying to keep his dad’s dreams alive while Potts (Wonderland) with her pixie face plays Charlie’s sweet love interest. But it’s all Ejiofor--strutting around in one outlandish musical number after another all while helping Charlie save the factory. A tour de force. A movie about shoes. What could be more fun? Actually Kinky Boots follows some standard fairly foolproof plot devices. There’s the son taking over the family business even though he has no interest in it but finds the joy of making shoes after all. Then there’s the drag queen who is just so fan-tabulous on the stage just OWNS the world but of course harbors deep pain over a father who never understood her and can’t find the right man to save her life. These kind of Boots have walked before. But with a quirky script from writers Geoff Deane and Tim Firth and an easy-going style from TV director Julian Jarrold the film further highlights that certain British wry sensibility that makes most comedies from across the pond so very appealing.