Director: Edward Norton
Writer: Edward Norton (Screenplay) Jonathan Lethem (Novel)
Starring: Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Ethan Suplee, Cherry Jones, Bobby Cannavale
Plot: In 1950s New York, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.
Runtime: 2 Hours 24 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Motherless Brooklyn starts when Tourette’s suffering Lionel (Norton) witnesses his mentor Frank Minna (Willis) murdered as he looks to uncover the truth about who was behind his murder, with his team Gilbert (Suplee), Tony (Cannavale) and Danny (Roberts), which will point Lionel in the direction of who is behind the murder.
As Lionel digs deeper into the case, he learns of a corruption case in Brooklyn where Moses Randolph (Baldwin) is looking to clean up the slums believing they are the problem in the city, while the campaigners against it are the targets to his cleaning operation with the mayor backing everything he does.
Thoughts on Motherless Brooklyn
Characters & Performances – Lionel Essrog is a detective that sees his mentor murdered and looks to try and investigate who is behind it, he pretends to be a journalist to get into the world, where he will need to control his Tourette’s syndrome, which will cause him having outburst swearing, which can get him into trouble. Edward Norton doesn’t convince in this role, he hits the serious side well, but then he seems to throw Tourette’s in for what seems like comedy value, being offensive over part of his character. Laura Rose is the woman that Lionel starts trying to connect to his mentor, her past is what makes Lionel looking deeper into everyone connected to the story, she does work for a campaigner who is trying to save the housing for the minorities. Gugu Mbatha-Raw does everything right through the film without getting too much to do outside basic. Moses Randolph is the man that has put himself into the position of power, using his construction plans to make everything happen in the city, no matter who will walk over. We get plenty of issues about who he is, will take centre stage through the story. Alec Baldwin does get the strongest scenes when it comes to speeches, which will see him shine in the film. We do meet plenty of characters who will all have their own stories about what is going on, all trying to stay one step ahead of each other throughout the film.
Story – The story here follows a detective who is looking to solve the case which saw his partner murdered, leading him down a political rabbit hole in search for the truth. This is a story that shows us how people out themselves into positions of power to make sure they could control the city and increase their own income, we get a side attachment to the lead character Lionel of Tourette’s which just ends up looking completely out of place for the noir style the film is going for. We get twists around each corner, which will keep us wanting to know who the real villain of the case is, even if we are entering a world without anyone having a true moral compass. It plays out like you would imagine, without offering anything new to the genre, or being one of the best in it either.
Themes – Motherless Brooklyn is a crime thriller that will keep us guessing, will look at the corruption going on within the political system, showing us how people will take advantage of their position for pain, without getting intense with how anything unfolds, we are in full noir mode, which is fine, but it just never feels like the case is in any rush to be solved, despite using the Brooklyn backdrop to make everything feel tight with the tension of most sides being on a knifepoint waiting to explode.
Final Thoughts – Motherless Brooklyn is a crime noir that never manages to hit the intensity it wants to.