Edward Norton brings a 20 year passion project to life as he stars, produces, writes and directs this adaptation of the Johnathan Lethem novel of the same name. Whereas that book was set in a contemporary Brooklyn, Norton decides to move the action to the 1950’s to tell an off-kilter detective story that involves murder, deciet, jazz and a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top (of course).
Norton stars as Lionel Essrog, a private investigator who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, but also has a strong verbal and photographic memory that proves more than effective in his line of work. When his boss, mentor and friend, Frank (Bruce Willis), is murdered, Lionel sets out to find out who did it and why. He soon becomes embroiled in a complicated web of secrets and corruption as it soon becomes clear that the whole plot has something to do with Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), the commissioner for many of the city’s building department authorities.
Motherless Brooklyn is a strange beast. It has shades of classic detective stories of the neo noir variety, namely Chinatown, but it is operating completely in its own rhythm and key. There’s the hard-boiled voice-over, there’s meetings in smoky bars, and there’s sharp suits and vintage cars roaming the streets, but it feels very different to many of its kind, for better and for worse.
Full review at VultureHound, originally published April 14th 2020.