Now showing: Motherless Brooklyn (M) review


Luke McWilliams gives his review of the neo-noir crime film Motherless Brooklyn, written, produced and directed by Edward Norton. It also stars Edward Norton alongside Bruce Willis.

Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn
Edward Norten stars as private eye, Lionel Essrog, in Motherless Brooklyn (M).

In the 1950s in New York City, private eye Lionel Essrog (Edward Norten) works a case for his boss and mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Frank is trying to garner more money from his latest ‘snooping’ job from his shady clients, but things go south quickly!

Film noir hit its pinnacle in the 1940s and ‘50s, concentrating on hardboiled crime fiction that came from the Great Depression. The mood was low to match the visuals of low key black-and-white and a noticeable lack of natural light. Film noir became so popular thanks to Humphrey Bogart’s immortal characters from The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and Casablanca that it is difficult to make one without it coming off as a parody. Motherless Brooklyn’s Lionel, then, is distinct not due to his hard-drinking, lovelorn habits typical of the genre, but due to his Tourette’s syndrome; an affliction which gives him the ability to notice many different pieces of a puzzle. It also causes those around him, both friend and foe, to be taken in by him, something that is beneficial for his role as investigator and to distinguish him from his genre trappings.

Donning the fedora hat and coat of his mentor, Lionel heads into a socio-political conspiracy as big and shaggy-dogged as that of Chinatown in search of justice for his fallen friend. All the tropes are here with a rich atmosphere punctuated with Jazz used to reflect Lionel’s eclectic mind.

Verdict: A rich experience celebrating the genre while commenting on contemporary American political approaches.

Motherless Brooklyn – 4.5 stars.

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