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Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, "Motherless Brooklyn" follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome, as he ventures to solve his friend's murder. Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance.Written by
Great acting, excellent jazz score, good but loooong film.
In his second directorial effort, Edward Norton has cast himself as the "motherless" Lionel, a smart-as-a-whip film-noir "gumshoe" with a photographic memory who suffers from Tourette's. No surprise: He's excellent in a difficult role, having carefully studied the ticks and other idiosyncrasies Tourette's causes. Indeed, almost the whole cast is terrific, filled with great character actors -- Willem Dafoe, Michael K. Williams, Robert Wisdom, Cherry Jones, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann. Bruce Willis has a great role as Lionel's friend and mentor. And with many street scenes, Brooklyn ably stars as itself.
Norton spent years working on this film, keeping intact his own character and the gang of detectives led by Willis. But Norton changed almost everything else, setting the film in the late '50s, and focusing it on a character based on NYC power broker extraordinary Robert Moses. It's perfect film noir fodder: power and corruption, progress vs. community, race and a bit of sex, all with a jazz score in the background.
The characters are great, and for the most part, the plot works well. The tight first hour devolves into a more muddled and "fat" second half that could have been cut by 10-15 minutes. And Alec Baldwin as the "bad guy" might have worked better if I hadn't had his SNL Trump riffs in my head. But good character development and a great film-noir "look" makes this film worth seeing.
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