Motherless Brooklyn

Based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel, ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ takes its cue from the crime noir genre. Shady streets populated by shady characters are a noir mainstay. Countless movies have delved into the genre including ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Body Heat’. A passion project for screenwriter, director and star Edward Norton’, ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ is a captivating movie where loose truths are on display.

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) works in 1950’s New York at a detective agency overseen by Frank Lionel (Bruce Willis). A loner afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, Lionel’s analytical mind makes him a good detective. His skills are needed when a friend is murdered, putting him on a collision course with two powerful brothers, property tycoon Moses (Alec Baldwin) and Paul (Willem DaFoe). Murder and double cross ensue with Lionel caught in the middle of a war threatening to tear the city apart.

Although deviating significantly from the source novel, ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ still captivates. Like any good mystery, it takes time to unravel the clues and excels in character based drama. Whilst looking complicated as many whodunnits, its resolution is simple enough for viewers to piece together the puzzle. It’s a credit to Norton’s film-making abilities that he can infuse issues of injustice and greed into an often engrossing story.

‘Motherless Brooklyn’ is slightly too long but making it consistently interesting watching are the performances. Norton does well as a character determined to crack the case despite his affliction. Baldwin provides a magnetic performance as the shady Moses. The set design and music are all first class, successfully conjuring the noir-ish mood Norton aims for.

Despite requiring patience with its convoluted plotting, ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ pays off well. Decades after the likes of Humphrey Bogart in ‘The Maltese Falcon’ made noir fashionable, the genre thrives. Adapting it for a new generation takes creative skill, of which ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ has in abundance.

Rating out of 10: 7


Queen and Slim

‘Queen & Slim’ is in the same mould as the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway classic ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. Having a pair of fugitives as protagonists, such films want you to follow them on a journey. ‘Queen & Slim’ adds several topical ingredients making it more enticing. By exploring issues of racial prejudice, poverty and love, it consistently captivates. Under Melinda Matsoukas’ steady direction, ‘Queen & Slim’ packs a punch as it hurtles towards a fiery conclusion.

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are African Americans out on their first date. When pulled over by a racist cop for a minor traffic violation, trouble starts. Events swiftly escalate with a dead cop and the pair going on the run. Becoming fodder for a hungry media, Queen and Slim do what they can in order to escape the law. Becoming a symbol of mistreated youth, their media-driven notoriety reaches all corners of America. This level of fame isn’t what they bargained for as they fight for survival.

‘Queen and Slim’ is an engrossing romantic drama. Queen’s loner demeanour is the polar opposite of Slim’s spontaneous nature. Opposites don’t necessarily attract but circumstances force them to work together. Their developing relationship is believably realised. Their reactions to those whom they meet reveals a lot about themselves and the differing nature of notoriety.

The themes ‘Queen and Slim’ deliver are well conveyed by the strong cast. Turner-Smith and Kaluuya display genuine chemistry, making following their plight more interesting. Their co-stars equally shine as does the cinematography which adds to the story’s general ambiance.

Whilst ‘Queen and Slim’ is a movie filled with important messages, it isn’t a dull history lesson. It’s relatable and often moving with an atmosphere all its own. Whether you agree with their actions or not, ‘Queen and Slim’s central characters inhabit a world feeling all too real which is a key to the film’s success.

Rating out of 10: 8