Motherless Brooklyn


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Motherless Brooklyn
"Edward Norton has taken risks all down the line and proves himself capable of unquestionable courage in storytelling."

Every shriek and dump of criticism from other reviewers have been screwed down already inside this movie's coffin, such as its (alleged) Chinatown imitation, too long by miles, confusion and irritation because who knows what the hell is going on?

A Fifties carbon of New York's political intrigue and corruption among power brokers and law enforcement officers? Out there like a survivor of the rough is Willem Dafoe, bearded and unrecognisable as the big baddie's brother who speaks from the heart and is ignored.

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Edward Norton, who wrote the script from Jonathan Lethem's novel, directed the film and plays the lead, a grown orphan called Lionel Essrog, has taken risks all down the line and proves himself capable of unquestionable courage in storytelling and being truthful to complexity without treating the audience as a mental underclass.

If you have problems following the plot, so does Lionel who suffers from Tourette's and cannot control his outbursts. He works for his friend, Frank (Bruce Willis), a private detective, cleaning up, keeping stuff in order, until disaster strikes and he finds himself playing the gumshoe for real against Dafoe's brother (Alec Baldwin), the most powerful man in Brooklyn, who has the ability and authority and desire to change the neighbourhood by forcing the "coloured people" out and raising the rents.

Of course, there is more to this than landlord banditry and the music of Harlem. There are the people, not just Lionel or the politics of greed but racist tremors in the heartland of white supremacy. The actors who worked for less than minimum because of Norton and their respect are flawless. If you can hold a handle on credulity and let imagination loose and allow emotion to create the possibility of an atmosphere that lives and breathes beyond the breakdown of trust you have a film uniquely scarred by surprise and daring.

Reviewed on: 28 Nov 2019
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Motherless Brooklyn packshot
A lonely private detective with Tourette's attempts to solve his friend's murder.
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Director: Edward Norton

Writer: Jonathan Lethem, Edward Norton

Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Fisher Stevens, Dallas Roberts, Cherry Jones, Josh Pais, Robert Wisdom, Doris McCarthy

Year: 2019

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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