Edward Norton – veteran Oscar-nominated actor of such films as Birdman, American History X and Primal Fear – directs his first film in 19 years with this ambitious crime noir.
After reading an advance copy of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn more than twenty years ago, the Incredible Hulk actor has wanted to adapt it ever since – directing, producing, writing and even starring in this pet project.
He even sets in the fifties – as opposed to the nineties background of the book – as we see Norton star as Lionel Essrog, a private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome.
When his boss (Bruce Willis) is killed, he vows to solve the murder. This investigation leads him to Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a larger-than-life take on Robert Moses – the New York developer who is responsible for creating the bridges and highways that the city uses today.
And in the name of ‘progress’, Randolph is willing to clean the streets of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens – and Essrog attempts against all odds to lift the lid on these underhand crimes.
The cast definitely isn’t the problem here as the performances are great – Norton is particularly fascinating to watch – but without a good script, this means nothing.
But sadly Motherless Brooklyn tries to solve a mystery I wasn’t invested in.
Had Willis not have been killed in the opening scene (I think it’s only fair I warn you as was seen in the trailer – in case he’s your reason for seeing this) perhaps I would have been more intrigued to see him avenged.
There’s some real stylish shots and a few stand-out moments, but they’re too few and far between for a film that is almost two and a half hours long.
And for a film that long, the ‘big reveal’ simply didn’t pay off – despite the generally impressive acting performances at hand.
Motherless definitely left a void when I was yearning for this to kick-in at many points throughout. But it sadly never did.
ESP Rating: 2/5
Cast: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ethan Suplee, Josh Pais, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, Fisher Stevens, Bobby Cannavale & Dallas Roberts
Running Time: 2 Hrs 24 Mins
Director: Edward Norton
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