(Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
‘Motherless Brooklyn’ One of a Kind Character
Never in my life of watching films have I seen a character like Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) in “Motherless Brooklyn.”
Lionel possesses genius.
Lionel possesses some “gangsterism.”
Lionel possesses a mental affliction.
Lionel has loyalty at his core.
And Lionel has a heart.
Lionel has eccentricities, but his “freak show” personality carries “Motherless Brooklyn.”
And while “Motherless Brooklyn” left me a little letdown at times, wanting more, Norton’s brilliance, along with the brilliance of the rest of the supporting cast, carries “Motherless Brooklyn” from start to finish.
First and foremost, “Motherless Brooklyn” does not totally mimic your favorite gangster movies.
Let’s establish that reality right now.
While some of the characters in “Motherless Brooklyn” have a lot of “G” in them, the stereotypical storyline of drug dealing or bootlegging does not exist in this gangster foray.
Frank Minna (Bruce Willis, “Glass”) calls Lionel “Motherless Brooklyn” because he grew up without his parents in a Brooklyn, N.Y. orphanage.
While in the orphanage, Lionel earns his “freak show” reputation.
Although Lionel has a lot of intelligence, which includes a great memory and incredible recall, none of the nuns at the Catholic orphanage know what to do with his affliction.
It is as if Lionel has broken glass in his brains, which causes him to shout out nonsensical and humorous things for no other reason.
The nuns try to beat his nervous twitch out of him, but it does not work.
As an adult, Lionel learns that smoking marijuana and chewing gum kind of remedies the problem.
Unfortunately, the marijuana causes him to lose some of his mental gifts like his memory and recall.
Despite the fact that the nuns have no respect for Lionel, Minna takes a liking to Lionel from an early age.
Minna basically takes Lionel under his wing at a young age and even gives him employment at his private investigation company as an adult.
Lionel would die for Minna, period, point blank.
How could he not have loyalty to one of the only people who saw past his illness and recognized his intelligence and gifts?
At the beginning of “Motherless Brooklyn,” Lionel and Gilbert Coney (Ethan Suplee, “Remember the Titans” and “Blow”) wait in a car on the New York streets for Minna to arrive and give them their instructions.
Minna informs Lionel to call him from a pay phone when the men he is expecting to meet with get to his building.
Lionel’s mentor and boss also tells them to tail behind him if he has to get into a car with the gentlemen he is meeting with.
The loyal employee and mentee senses that Minna has some apprehension about the meeting.
But if pistol play breaks out, Lionel and Coney cannot even defend their boss because they are not carrying a weapon.
Unfortunately, Minna’s nervousness proves justifiable because he unwittingly gets into a car with the dangerous looking men as they high tail it through the busy streets of New York.
Trying desperately to keep up with the car that Minna is in proves virtually impossible as Lionel and Coney get left behind on the Brooklyn Bridge toll road.
The car driving Minna has a pass to speed through the toll road, while Coney and Lionel have to wait behind the traffic to pay the quarter toll.
When Coney and Lionel finally catch up to Minna, their boss is taking a bullet and fighting for his life.
Minna’s employees rush him to the nearest hospital where he unfortunately takes his last breath.
Before passing on, Lionel tries to get his mentor to tell him who shot him and why.
Minna remains somewhat secretive about the meeting that eventually leads to his death.
However, he does give Lionel a clue as he begins piecing the puzzle together to find out what Minna got himself mixed up in.
While some of his colleagues at the private investigation firm have moved on with their careers, despite grieving the loss of their boss, Lionel cannot let go of the person who refused to let him go when everyone else had given up on him.
He remains determined to solve his boss’ murder even if it gets him killed in the process.
To put it bluntly, Norton (“Collateral Beauty”) is fabulous in “Motherless Brooklyn.”
The great Willem Dafoe (playing Paul) is the great Willem Dafoe (“Aquaman”); no further explanations needed.
But the storyline of “Motherless Brooklyn” separates it from other gangster movies for better or worse.
“Motherless Brooklyn” deals with gentrification.
While the issue of gentrification involves its share of gangsters, not enough violence exists to measure up with classics of the gangster film genre.
Furthermore, “Motherless Brooklyn” does not represent the stereotypical period piece because the issue that the people of New York struggled with in the 1950s still reverberates throughout America in the 21st century.
Additionally, “Motherless Brooklyn” does not fall into the predictability trap that many Hollywood dramas fall victim.
“Motherless Brooklyn” has pure intrigue and suspense, with twists and turns.
Despite not having reached legendary status like Norton, Willis and Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Belle”) holds her own as Laura Rose.
Laura brings sensitivity to “Motherless Brooklyn.”
In essence, Laura brings a motherly quality that is much needed.
Although “Motherless Brooklyn” needs little more “gangsterism,” the character Lionel does not need anything more.
Lionel should become an iconic character in gangster film lore because no character has ever fascinated me more.