Motherless Brooklyn review by Bobby Blakey
Edward Norton is one of those actors that always goes all in with great performances in whatever he takes on, with my personal favorite being American History X. For his latest Motherless Brooklyn, he is taking on multiple roles as writer, director and star. The film features a great supporting cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe and Bruce Willis, but does it bring something different to the film noir genre or will it struggle to make its voice clear?
Motherlsess Brooklyn follows Lionel Essrog, a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome who ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna. Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York's power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.
The story is a simple detective whodunit flick with a noir vibe that is something we just don’t get much of these days. Norton has crafted a great film that goes all in to bring the look and feel of 1950s New York to the screen. This is the perfect backdrop for this tale with the city itself being a character that helps keep the tone intact. Norton gives another excellent performance creating a character that you feel sorry for initially, but soon respect for the gifts he has. His characters Tourettes is something that adds another layer to the character that helps to make him more standout while unique in this type of film. As the viewer I found myself not focusing on it as much as the film went on which is a testament to the story and his performance.
The rest of the cast are all great as well with Willis being a pretty small role but important to the narrative of the entire film. Even being a smaller role this is much better than a lot of the straight to video cameos he has been churning out over the last couple of years. It comes as no surprise both Baldwin and Dafoe also shine in their roles but this is Norton’s show all
the way. I found myself sucked into the story as he attempts to uncover who is behind the crime with plenty of twists and turns to keep it interesting while never getting overly complicated.
If there is any issue it does run a bit long for the type of film it is and the slow pace might throw some off. I found it to be engaging throughout, but some extra trimming would have made for a much tighter great film. Norton has not only delivered yet another great performance, but showcased his talent as a filmmaker and I hope we don’t have to wait another 19 years before seeing his next directing effort.