Reviewer's grade: A
Times are tough for everyone in Gotham City in "The Dark Knight." The criminal underground " once led by big-time mob bosses and established thugs " is facing problems from every direction. First is Gotham's new lead district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, "No Reservations," "Thank You for Smoking"), an innovative, incorrupt do-gooder whose city vision and reckless determination are starting to net big arrests and criminal unrest.
Making matters worse is The Joker (the late Heath Ledger, "I'm Not There," "Brokeback Mountain"), a twisted criminal newcomer who makes a name for himself by robbing a mob-owned bank. "The Dark Knight" is Batman at his best " a stunning example of how powerful the character can be.
Previously portrayed on film by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 "Batman," the character is usually depicted as a giggly, campy kill-cartoon. Ledger's version has less polish, prancing and preening, opting instead for a staggering, breathy psychopath with perpetually wet hair; smeared, faded makeup; and mouthy, greasy dialogue. But the new Joker is scarier when he is silent. PG-13