Critic Reviews



Based on 9 critic reviews provided by
As Motherless Brooklyn reaches back in time to explore racism and New York City’s history, it also brings us urgently back to right now — how we look at politics and leadership, what offenses we’re willing to accept, what ideals are still worth fighting for.
Motherless Brooklyn is the sort of risk-taking effort that deserves kudos whether it works or not. As it happens, this lengthy film-noir labour of love by writer, director and star Edward Norton, is well worth the ride.
If it all sometimes feels trapped in the amber of his intentions, Brooklyn still casts a quiet sort of spell: a meticulously, lovingly made mood piece, full of empathy for the ones who can’t speak — at least not always the way they want to — for themselves.
Lionel’s mannerisms could have gotten obnoxious in a hurry, but Norton calibrates the performance so that the character remains unpredictable without becoming unbearable.
Despite some pacing troubles and myriad undeveloped characters, Motherless Brooklyn functions well enough as a throwback to the intelligent, atmospheric studio private investigator dramas to which it tips a velvety fedora, and shows evidence that this dormant genre still has legs.
It’s a heavy meal to digest, but this is a strong, vehement film with a real sense of time and place.
Ultimately, frustration and fatigue prevail over the film’s intellectual acuity and political insight; neither is any true emotion ever forthcoming. This is odd and disappointing.
Few films come out in any given year with creative choices as baffling as the ones made by Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn.
Motherless Brooklyn feels altogether too tidy, a film that revives many of the touchstones of noir, but never that throbbing unease that courses through the classics of the genre.

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