Lionel Essrog is a lonely private detective who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna — his mentor and only friend. Scouring the jazz clubs and slums of Brooklyn and Harlem, Essrog soon uncovers a web of secrets while contending with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city.
Plot: In 1950s New York, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.
Director: Edward Norton
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Runtime: 144 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Motherless Brooklyn‘s imposing length requires patience, but strong performances and a unique perspective make this a mystery worth investigating.
“One of Norton’s best performances to date.”
In 1950s New York City, Lionel Essrog works at a detective agency alongside Gilbert Coney, Danny Fantl, and Tony Vermonte. You learn quickly that their boss, Frank Minna rescued them as children from an abusive orphanage. Nicknamed “Motherless Brooklyn” by Frank, Lionel has Tourette syndrome, which makes him strange to be around, but his photographic memory makes him a good detective. Working a secret case, Frank asks Lionel and Gilbert to shadow him to a meeting. Lionel listens over the phone as Frank presents documents that threaten a business deal for William Lieberman. When Frank tries to negotiate a high price, the men force him to take them to the originals. Following this situation in the tailing car, Lionel and Gilbert arrive just as Frank is shot — they take him to the hospital, but unfortunately, Frank dies.
After his death Lionel begins wearing Frank’s hat and coat, and a matchbook in Frank’s pocket leads Lionel to a jazz bar in Harlem. He realizes that Frank’s findings involve Laura Rose, who works for Gabby Horowitz fighting urban renewal; poor and minority neighborhoods are being bought out and destroyed, forcing out residents. Lionel goes to a public meeting on the matter where Moses Randolph, the commissioner, is confronted by the people affected in the neighborhood. One of those that confront him, Paul gets thrown out with Lionel after his unnatural outburst.
Lionel disguises himself as a reporter with a stolen badge which in turn, gets him close to Laura. She takes him to the club Frank was investigating, where her father assumes Lionel is one of Moses’ men — throws him out and has him beaten unconscious. Ultimately rescued by a trumpet player, and discovers that Paul is Moses’ brother and an engineer. Even more so, he realizes Lieberman is receiving kickbacks on many of the housing deals and that the housing relocation programs are a scam.
What will unfold? How will the pieces come together? You ‘ll have to watch the movie to uncover the rest.
In conclusion —
It’s rare that I get to review a movie on home media release that I haven’t seen, shockingly Motherless Brooklyn falls into that category. I had every intention to see this in theater, but I didn’t end up getting around to it. This movie, like the quote says on the back cover is “nothing short of a masterpiece” (Ashley Menzel). Everything about this film works; directing, acting, writing, world building — it all hits the mark. As I sit here, I can’t think of anything negative to say about the film.
My initial thought going in was that a movie that sits at nearly a two and half hour runtime could have its slow-moments, but that didn’t happen either. There’s a nice pace and the plot moves and builds layer after layer. Norton shines as a director and actor, but don’t let that fool you, there is a powerhouse of actors all around him to bring out even the smallest of characters or scenes.
When it comes to the special features, you get three different options; deleted scenes, commentary with Director Edward Norton & ‘Making-Of: Edward Norton’s Methodical Process.’ In total you get about 15 minutes of extra content in total — I wouldn’t expect a film like this to have an abundance of special features, but it has the important ones.
Taking everything into account, Motherless Brooklyn gets my recommendation for an easy day-one purchase, it’s one of Edward Norton’s best performances to date and it’s an amazing film too! Norton still hasn’t won himself an Oscar yet, but I hope that day is still to come in the future. Something he does well is snagging roles that grab the audience’s attention, you always look forward to what he’s doing next! Do yourself a favor, grab a copy at your local retailer when it releases on Blu-ray & DVD Tuesday, January 28th.
Did you catch Motherless Brooklyn in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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