When his boss is murdered, Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) - a private detective afflicted with Tourette's - looks into his last case to try and figure out who killed him. Essrog's investigation will see him caught in a web of political conspiracy, as he draws the attention of some of New York's most powerful.
Edward Norton has his hands full with Motherless Brooklyn - not that you'd know it. On top of his acting duties the star also serves as writer, director and producer. Taking the book Motherless Brooklyn - the title is eventually explained - a story set in 1999 and adapting it into a movie set in 1957 is a bold move, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't work. Norton and his team have done a good job of recreating 1950's New York in all its glory...and its destitution. Shot in the style of a classic noir detective drama - much like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential - the story cleverly deals with issues of corruption, greed, gentrification, exploitation and abuse of power.
Even with his extra duties Norton is still on top form. His portrayal of a man with Tourette's is very genuine - the movie received the approval of the Tourette's Association of America. He's also very believable as a skilled detective, someone who is able to follow all of the threads attached to this convoluted mystery - although some of the clues/coincidences can feel a little too convenient. In trying to find his boss' killers, Essrog embroils himself in a massive conspiracy, and like all good conspiracies, you never know who you can trust. From Gugu Mbatha-Raw's 'Laura Rose', a caring but tough woman fighting gentrification in the city's many boroughs, to Alec Baldwin's cold city official, the movie is filled with a diverse range of suspects...I mean characters, not to mention some phenomenal performances - even Bruce Willis looks like he's having fun.
There will be times when you won't have a clue what is going on, which will only make you want to know more. Despite all of this mystery, the story is very grounded, I doubt it would surprise many to see an article in the news about a story/scandal like this. It's also not an action movie, although there are some good fights, even if Essrog does spend more time getting beaten up than anything else. The movie even has something to say on gun ownership, with at least two characters seeing their own gun pointed at them. Ticking along at a more slow than steady pace, Motherless Brooklyn can at times feel a little long. But it is definitely worth sticking it out to the very end, even if it is just to see if the little guy gets to steal a win from the big guy.
Edward Norton has proven he can deliver a stellar performance even whilst working behind the camera as well. Motherless Brooklyn is a complicated but engrossing murder mystery. Yes it can feel a little long, but it's a mystery you'll feel compelled to get to the bottom of.
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