Adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s novel by writer, director and star Edward Norton (and carefully crafted to display his own brilliance), Motherless Brooklyn is a curious near miss that can be both applauded and criticised for its boundless ambition. Norton transposes the story from the late 1990s to 1950s Brooklyn, and the result is an atmospheric but try-too-hard noir homage.

There’s no arguing with the quality of the craft here: the production design, by Beth Mickle, is vivid and full-blooded; the score, by Daniel Pemberton, is a brassy dive bar grind, all skittish drums and slutty brass. But like the rest of the film – and particularly Norton’s central performance as Tourette’s-suffering gumshoe Lionel Essrog, who must unpick a web of corruption following the murder of his boss and mentor Frank (Bruce Willis) – there’s something showy and calculated about the whole thing. Still, it’s worth watching for Alec Baldwin’s bulldozer turn as the power-soured city official who ruins lives for kicks.

Watch a trailer for Motherless Brooklyn.



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