(Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).
Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance.
In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York's power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.
Blu-ray Verdict: As I think we can all now attest to, employing at least half a dozen incidentals and characters from 'Chinatown' (1973), Ed Norton saddled with a case of Tourettes channels Jack Nicholson's Jake Gittes in this at times sluggish detective film that takes place in the late '50s - while borrowing liberally from other periods.
Wearing many hats, both literally and figuratively, the auteur/director draws a split decision with his excellent choice in hats here, but that's only a small part of the ongoing, unfolding story, of course.
Sam Spade's partner is whacked by triggermen who may be in the employ of legendary NY planning commissioner Robert Moses (Alec Baldwin), who is himself destroying black neighborhoods.
But then Miles Davis (Michael Williams) comes to the rescue - kind of, sort of - but as the players are all very reasonable facsimiles of characters gone by, it's a wonder that the movie wasn't buried under a weight of journalistic "How'd they get away with this?" long before it came to get talked about for an Oscar!
In truth, and as much as I enjoyed this noir film (I did, honestly!), Norton's direction is slow paced as the film creeps with overlong scenes at clubs and a pace-killing heart to heart with the female lead.
He even seems to sabotage his suspenseful moments by being repetitive in situations while his vintage autos convey an artificial look with their with "showroom glow" still in tact as they tool around Queens and Brooklyn.
Also, and whilst this postmodern film noir goes to great lengths to set up and execute a somewhat over complicated mystery plot it really is not so hard to foresee most of the twists and turns.
Again, much as if this film had been made before, minus a Tourette's ridden protagonist. the multiple, and wayward murders aside, the overall art direction is beautifully photographed and its fun to see Norton and an entourage of a few more movie stars appearing together in one film, if truth be told.
Simply put, 'Homeless Brooklyn' is (if you allow it to be) highly entertaining, although a mishmash of themes that are loose threads of a sprawling story are found to come forth most times.
Told through the eyes of Ed Norton as Lionel Essrog, a flawed hero with Tourette's, yet endowed with perfect pitch of a memory that forget nothing, his overly restless mind stitches together a murder with mumbled clues.
Also, something I think you should know is that 'Motherless Brooklyn' was a true labor of love from Norton, who directed, produced, wrote the script (based on Jonathan Lethem's book).
The movie was in development hell for, quite literally, many years and that Norton finally was able to make it, and make of it what he has, is a genuine tribute to his persistence and patience.
Bruce Willis, who gets second billing, has less than ten minutes of screen time and whereas Alec Baldwin, Leslie Mann and Willem Dafoe also have small roles and small screen time, Baldwin's especially is as menacingly astute as they come.
One of the very best aspects of the movie is the score, courtesy of versatile and rapidly up-and-coming composer Daniel Pemberton. On top of that, Thom Yorke contributes a new song ("Daily Battles"), which also plays prominently in the movie's trailer.
In closing, Edward Norton's passion project is well worth watching for anyone who counts themselves as an "intelligent audience member." Also, there is quite a lot of vulgar language, and some blood, but other than that, the movie should be fine for teens and up. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:
“Motherless Brooklyn” Blu-ray contains the following special features:
• Making-Of: Edward Norton’s Methodical Process
• Commentary with Director Edward Norton
• Deleted Scenes
“Motherless Brooklyn” DVD contains the following special feature:
• Making-Of: Edward Norton’s Methodical Process
On January 14, “Motherless Brooklyn” will be available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers including Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. On January 28, “Motherless Brooklyn” will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles..
Official 'Motherless Brooklyn' Trailer
'Motherless Brooklyn' Blu-ray + Digital Amazon Purchase Link
Official 'Motherless Brooklyn' Facebook Page!