“Motherless Brooklyn” (Warner Bros.)

Alec Baldwin and Edward Norton star in a scene from the movie "Motherless in Brooklyn." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Warner Bros.)

By Catholic News Service

Edward Norton wrote, directed and stars in this adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel and the result is a top-notch crime drama. Norton plays a private detective in 1950s New York whose Tourette’s syndrome is offset by a phenomenal memory for detail. After his friend, mentor and senior partner (Bruce Willis) is murdered while investigating shady real estate deals, he pursues the case and crosses paths with a Robert Moses-like civil servant (Alec Baldwin), a community activist (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) opposed to the bureaucrat’s latest project, a down-on-his-luck architect (Willem Dafoe) and a gifted trumpet player (Michael Kenneth Williams).

As the movie’s plot twists and turns over a long running time, viewers will appreciate its evocation of film noir atmospherics, its powerful jazz score, the innocence of its central romance and the pro-life sympathy Norton wins for its afflicted but good-hearted protagonist. They will be less impressed by the script’s gritty vocabulary.

Stylized violence with occasional gore, semi-medicinal drug use, frequent profanities, a few milder oaths, pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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