Norton brilliant in overlong thriller Motherless Brooklyn

REVIEW: Motherless Brooklyn, Cineworld

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

Motherless BrooklynMotherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn

Quite apart from writing and directing the whole thing, Edward Norton gives a remarkable central performance – the single reason to watch Motherless Brooklyn, a film which often seems the mother of all slogs at a whopping 144 minutes.

It’s clearly a huge personal project for Norton, a fact which really does make you wonder: has a little bit of self-indulgence crept in by the back door and plonked itself in the middle of the movie? It’s frustrating to think just how much better this film would have been had it managed to inject even a whiff of urgency somewhere along the line. A far better film would have been at least half an hour shorter, far less obessesed with creating atmosphere and a sense of brooding and much more taut in its plotting. The sadness is that Norton’s efforts – particularly the brilliance of his performance – deserve so much more than a saggy slow-burner which never truly threatens to ignite.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Norton is Lionel Essrog, an orphaned kid growing up on the streets of Brooklyn – a youngster who is taken in by private detective Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Minna becomes his mentor, boss and friend – and only Lionel seems remotely interested in tracking down his killer when Minna, clearly dangerously deep in something dodgy, is gunned down at the start of the film.

It falls to Lionel to put the pieces together, starting from not very much, simply that Minna was following someone.

What emerges is that Minna was too close to the tyrannical property developer Moses Randolph, a bullying brute beautifully played by Alec Baldwin. Under the guise of slum clearance and opening up parks instead, Randolph is up to his eyeballs in corruption, lining his pockets in the murkiest of plotlines which it is often difficult to hang on to and frequently difficult to be overly bothered about.

The real beauty of the piece is Norton as Lionel, a guy afflicted with twitches and shouting which Norton brilliantly builds so naturally into the character that his obsessive mind remains completely plausible – seemingly the one good guy, quick-witted, decent and – in activist and lawyer Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – possibly finding someone worth caring for.