Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Review: "Motherless Brooklyn" is a nice announcement for Ed Norton, but lacks a pop

Motherless Brooklyn Review
If you are a fan of Edward Norton, you have probably heard any or some behind-the-scenes rumors around his name. Here's the thing about Edward Norton, he is absolutely relentless on both himself and the actors around him because he wants to deliver the best possible product. Doesn't make him a bad person, but its easy to see why some directors or some studios would label him "difficult to work with." Back in 2012, he was all set to play Hulk in "The Avengers," and he met with Joss Whedon. One of the big things Norton requested was a shot at the script, and there was no way producer Kevin Feige wouldn't ever let any of his actors do that. Norton wants the very best at all times, that rubs people the wrong way and but for some it does the opposite.

So one could only imagine what the set of "Motherless Brooklyn." Edward Norton not only stars but directed, produced and wrote the script, which is based upon a novel by Jonathon Lethem. Set in the 1950's, Norton plays Lionel. A man with Tourette Syndrome, but because of his photographic memory, he's an excellent detective. He works along side Gilbert (Ethan Suplee), Danny (Dallas Roberts), and Tony (Bobby Cannavale). These guys have all known each other since childhood and work for the guy who rescued them from an abusive orphange, a guy named Frank (Bruce Willis). 

Not to jump into spoilers right now, but when investigating a shady business deal, Frank is shot and killed. Lionel begins an investigation of his own to see who got Frank killed and why. Lionel's investigations lead him to a woman named Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is helping a woman named Gabby (Cherry Jones) who are fighting forced gentrification in the city, all being done by a ruthless city councilmen Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin).

If you didn't think that was enough stars, the movie also stars Leslie Mann, Michael K. Williams, Willem Dafoe, Fisher Stevens and Josh Pais. Every single performance, big or small, is at the top of its form. So its really hard to even begin talking about who sticks out here. Everybody is great. The movie feels like a mixture between "Once Upon A Time in America" and "Chinatown," and Norton fills his movie full of mood and atmosphere. Norton also does a splendid job taking us all the way back to the 1950's.

When it gets down to it, "Motherless Brooklyn" isn't a complicated story, but it takes its time getting to the end. It drags in places, it over-explains in places, its a movie that didn't need to be nearly as long as it should have been. In the end, you may be checking your watch a few more times then you anticipated. Its too bad, because Norton really does a great job as a first-time director and I can't wait to see what else he's capable of. He's just going to have to watch his pacing his next time around. Alas, "Motherless Brooklyn" is still worth the trip.

FINAL GRADE: B

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