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.
Set in New York City in 1957 the settings and the cinematography are
exquisite, the attention to details that Norton gives to the New York City
streetscape is impressive, every shot looks as if it comes from a page of a
Sadly “Motherless Brooklyn” ends up being mostly style over substance as
the story, it’s based on a novel by Jonathan Lethem, that promises so much
with its many twists and turns eventually comes to very little.
Norton, nervous ticks and all, is terrific in the lead role, it’s just a
shame that the story doesn’t have more to offer during a running time that
could easily have been trimmed by a few good minutes.