motherless brooklyn (2019)  the movie review

This neo-noir crime thriller based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem, is set in the 1950s. Written, directed, produced and starring Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Illusionist) draws its locations from the crime-ridden, very corruptible back street slums and bars of New York’s Brooklyn and Harlem.

Presented in the style and pace of the old Hollywood B Grade detective movies where the protagonist narrates the story it tells the tale of Lionel “Brooklyn” Essrog (Edward Norton) a fledgling Private Eye who suffers from both Tourettes and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

After the murder of his very shady mentor, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) Lionel feels compelled to step up to the plate and track down the killers.

His fellow street-worn gumshoes tolerate his affliction, but it is obvious he is never really taken seriously. Undaunted by their sometimes degrading attitude, he is determined to avenge Frank’s death with or without their assistance.

Left to relying solely on his photographic memory and his meticulous attention to detail, he slowly puts the pieces of the puzzle together.

This movie is more than just another detective story fuelled by the usual murder, corrupt politicians, violent thugs, a few sultry broards and a sleazy bar peppered with a very hip jazz soundtrack. It is an inspiring piece of modern cinema where the central character, despite his social disabilities, manages to triumph.

Norton portrays his character’s afflictions with masterful confidence as he repeatedly goes over the few cryptic clues he has, including Franks haunting last comments.

As he slowly unravels the mystery, he is lured to and assaulted in the dark alleys of Harlem’s all-night jazz bars and the stone-cold citadels of the corrupt public officials.

As the story twists and turns nothing is as it seems especially when he becomes involved with the beautiful, civil rights activist Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and he opens a pandora’s box of deadly secrets.

Hot on the trail he encounters a destitute city engineer, Paul Randolph ( William Dafoe) which only adds to the growing web of intrigue. It is not until power-hungry city official Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin) enters the story that their separate self-serving yet connected agendas become confusingly apparent.

Eventually, he learns why Frank kept his secrets under his hat.

Norton truly excels in this demanding role.

****

Photo Concept&Design by Beata Gombas (c) 2020

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