Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Every actor/director has their pet project. That film that they REALLY want to get done, but one that they know isn’t going to be a giant blockbuster. For Edward Norton Motherless Brooklyn is that film. Word is that he loved Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel so much that he immediately went and purchased the film rights, even before the book hit the streets for the public to buy. It took him another 13 years til 2012 to finish the screenplay, and then another 6 years before he could get Warner Brothers to give him the go ahead for the production, and even then, he was forced to step behind the director’s chair to get it done. Motherless Brooklyn sadly died at the box office (Warner Brothers took a bath on it, and I’m actually surprised that they didn’t shuffle it off to DVD only due to the box office results), but that’s not to say it’s a bad movie. Far from it in fact. It’s Edward Norton’s love story to gumshoe detective movies of the past, and while it’s not a nail biter, the film is a wonderful journey from start to finish.
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a secondary gumshoe working for Frank Minna P.I. (Bruce Willis), only to watch his boss get executed in front of his eyes by mystery men involved in a case Frank was working. Lionel is not just your average low level detective. He’s got a serious case of tourette syndrome, which kind of ostracizes himself from most people. Not about to let his boss’s murder go unchallenged, Lionel starts digging and digging, only to find the hole that he’s digging is getting so big that it very well may swallow him whole. All roads and clues lead to one man, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a man trying to create parks and bridges in the city of New York, and a man that seems to be loved and hated by all.
To thicken the plot, a young mulatto woman named Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) seems to be at the heart of the matter, and no matter how hard he tries to find a way, all roads lead back to Laura...and the enigmatic Moses Randolph.
Norton is phenomenal as the physically challenged detective. At first I thought the tourette syndrome was a bit over played, but as the movie progresses he sort of sinks into the role so thoroughly that even the audience almost forgets that his “handicap” is there. It’s a part of him so deeply and viscerally that you can’t even tell it’s Norton at times. Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafore turn in good performances (although their screen time is minimal comparatively). I was actually kind of excited to see Bruce Willis in a theatrical movie for once (seriously, the man has almost sunk to Steven Seagal levels of DTV movies lately) and even though he’s only in the movie for maybe 10-15 minutes, it’s nice to see him actually liven up and turn in a solid performance for once instead of looking bored spitless.
Some of the layers and nuances in the film seem a bit unneeded if I do say so, but I will have to watch the film another time or too and hopefully my appreciation will change. Again, I’m not knocking the movie as Norton did a great job with this Noir gumshoe love letter, and I REALLY like the smooth and laid back pacing he chose to implement. It’s just that I felt about 15 minutes could have been trimmed from the running to make it flow a bit smoother.
Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence
• Edward Norton's Methodical Process - Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
Motherless Brooklyn sadly didn’t get a whole lot of love at the box office, and much like the Goldfinch, it barely got a Blu-ray release at that. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the noir detective story, and now really want to check out Lethem’s book as well. The enjoyment is in the journey, as I said, and the journey with this one is well worth it you enjoy slower paced mysteries. Norton and Mbatha-Raw are excellent, and even Bruce manages to turn in a good performance for once. Warner’s technical specs are excellent, and while the extras aren’t THAT hefty, the package is still a good buy.
Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Ethan Suplee, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Directed by: Edward Norton
Written by: Edward Norton (Screenplay), Jonathan Lethem (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 144 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Own Motherless Brooklyn on Blu-ray on January 7 and Digital on December 17.
Recommendation: Good Watch