Motherless Brooklyn Blu Ray Review (Warner Bros)
Motherless Brooklyn is a 2019 crime film written, produced, & directed by Edward Norton (Keeping the Faith). It’s based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem. It’s the first official screen writing credit for Edward Norton even tho he previously helped write Fight Club, Frida, The Painted Veil, & The Incredible Hulk.This was a passion project for actor Edward Norton that took almost 20 years to finally get produced after being stuck in development forever. Most of the major stars for this production worked for free to help out their friend Edward Norton. It was produced by Sue Kroll (A Star Is Born, The Goldfinch, & Birds of Prey) & Gigi Pritzker (Drive, 21 Bridges, Hell or High Water, & The Spirit). It premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. The budget was $26 million & it grossed $18.3 million at the box office worldwide.
In 1950s New York City, Lionel Essrog (played by: Edward Norton from American History X, Primal Fear, Fight Club, & Rounders) works at a detective agency alongside Gilbert Coney (played by: Ethan Suplee from American History X, My Name is Earl, Mallrats, & Remember the Titans), Danny Fantl (played by: Dallas Roberts from My Friend Dahmer, Mayhem, 3:10 to Yuma, & Walk the Line), & Tony Vermonte (played by: Bobby Cannavale from The Irishman, Ant-Man, Boardwalk Empire, & Third Watch). Their boss Frank Minna (played by: Bruce Willis from Trauma Center, 10 Minutes Gone, Unbreakable/Glass, Death Wish, & Reprisal) rescued them as children from an abusive orphanage. Nicknamed “Motherless Brooklyn” by Frank, Lionel has Tourette syndrome. It often alienates him from people but his photographic memory makes him a good detective. Working a secret case, Frank asks Lionel & Gilbert to shadow him to a meeting. Frank presents documents that threaten a business deal for William Lieberman (played by: Josh Pais from Joker, Scream 3, Teeth, & Ray Donovan), Lou (played by: Fisher Stevens from Short Circuit 1/2, Super Mario Bros, Hackers, & The Burning), & their extremely large henchman (played by: Radu Spinghel from Gotham & 25th Hour). When Frank tries to negotiate a high price, the men force him to take them to the originals. Lionel & Gilbert follow in their car, arriving just as Frank is shot. They take him to the hospital right away but Frank dies. Frank’s widow Julia (played by: Leslie Mann from The Cable Guy, Knocked Up, This is 40, & Funny People) leaves Tony in charge of the office. A matchbook in Frank’s pocket leads Lionel to an African-American owned jazz bar in Harlem. He realizes that Frank’s findings involve Laura Rose (played by: Gugu Mbatha-Raw from The Cloverfield Paradox, Concussion, & Odd Thomas) who works for Gabby Horowitz (played by: Cherry Jones from 24, Signs, 11.22.63, & Ocean’s Twelve) fighting urban renewal; poor & minority neighborhoods are being bought out. Lionel goes to a public meeting where Moses Randolph (played by: Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock, The Departed, The Cooler, & Glengarry Glen Ross), a commissioner of several development authorities is accosted. Lionel poses as a reporter & talks to Paul (played by: Willem Dafoe from The Lighthouse, Platoon, Light Sleeper, & Aquaman) at the meeting. He investigates the case which leads him back to Laura, she takes him to a club ran by her father Billy (played by: Robert Wisdom from Face/Off, Ray, The Wire, & The Collector). He finds out that Paul is actually Moses’s brother & Lieberman is taking bribes from all these deals. As Lionel digs deeper, he finds out secrets that could ruin some of the most powerful people in the city. He also discovers that he can’t trust the people around him so he’s now on his own for this deadly game. Will he end up like his boss????
Motherless Brooklyn brings back noir to cinema which is rarely done these days. It’s well written & carefully crafted, it has a nice flow to it. It’s full of twists & surprises to keep you guessing. Edward Norton did it all for this production, this is much different than his previous directorial debut. This is one of his best performances & he captures Tourettes naturally here. It’s good to see Bruce Willis in a bigger film again. Just a warning, his role is small here but it’s very important. He was perfect for this character, it’s refreshing to see him care again because sometimes he just sleepwalks through material. Willem Dafoe & Alec Baldwin both turned in powerful performances in Motherless Brooklyn. Complete opposite roles here but their clash amped up the drama & conflict for the story. The supporting cast was top notch which included Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Ethan Suplee, Cherry Jones, Fisher Stevens, Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire), & Leslie Mann boosted the overall quality of the production. The cinematography & visual style took me back to older films when noir was very popular, they really captured the 50s in the this. Unfortunately, the general public wasn’t interested in a throwback type of feature so it didn’t do great in theaters despite having an all star cast. I hope this finds a new life on home video because I thought it was under-rated & it deserves more attention. RECOMMENDED!!!!