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Motherless Brooklyn

also known as “Brooklyn Affairs,” “Árva Brooklyn,” “Brooklyn: Sem Pai Nem Mãe,” “Huérfanos de Brooklyn,” “Motherless Brooklyn - I segreti di una città,” “Os Órfãos de Brooklyn,” “Osierocony Brooklyn,” “Сиротский Бруклин”
MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence.
not reviewed
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Neo-Noir Crime Detective Mystery Adaptation
2 hr. 24 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 1, 2019 (wide—1,342 theaters)
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Black and Latino families being evicted due to power hungry and greedy racist real estate developers

Political scandals

1950s New York City and its corruption

Abusive and sinful use of power

Attempting to bring corrupt officials to justice

Mobsters / organized crime


About death



RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity


Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Tourette syndrome

Being raised in a New York Catholic orphanage with nuns who tried to beat the bad language out of him

Overcoming personal fears and insecurities

Being courageous and persistant in trying to make a difference and fight for justice

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Featuring: Edward NortonLionel Essrog—detective
Bruce WillisFrank Minna
Gugu Mbatha-RawLaura Rose—an attorney
Willem DafoePaul Randolph
Alec BaldwinMoses Randolph
Leslie MannJulia Minna
Fisher StevensLou
Bobby CannavaleTony Vermonte
Dallas RobertsDanny Fantl
Ethan SupleeGilbert Coney
Josh PaisWilliam Lieberman
Michael Kenneth WilliamsTrumpet Man
Cherry JonesGabby Horowitz
See all »
Director: Edward Norton
Producer: Class 5 Films
MWM Studios
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures. Trademark logo.
Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “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 against the backdrop of 1950s New York, this film is based on the 1999 crime fiction novel by Jonathan Lethem.

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

  • Violence: Very Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Very Heavy to Extreme— • motherf***er (2) • other f-words (60+), including “How long have you been f***ing Julia?” and “f*** some colored girl” • s-words (25+) • “b*nging” and “b*ng” (sexual) • “suck d*ck” (1) • “d*ck” (1) • “t*ts” (5) • “a**hole” (2) • “a**” (9) • “b*tch” • “son of a b*tch” (9) • “cr*p” (1) • “p*ssed” (1) • “b*lls” (1) • “Colored broad” (1) • “f*ggot” and “f*g” • “Cr*cker” • a crass reference to a rape
  • Profane language: Very Heavy— • “J*sus” (12) • “J*sus Chr*st” (2) • “Chr*st” (1) • “God-d*mn” (5) • “G*d ”(2) • “H*ll” (5)
  • Sex: no sexual acts, but heavy verbal references
  • Nudity: Minor
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See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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Secular Movie Critics
…I haven’t seen a crime thriller this good since “L.A. Confidential.” …a big story with large moving pieces, told from the point-of-view of a very complex and complicated character. …
Alan Ng, Film Threat
…so amazingly bad it’s almost worth seeing… No, not the whole thing—no one deserves that kind of punishment. But do try to see 10 or 15 minutes of it, because this film is amazing, and not in a good way. …
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
…The thrust of the film is that New York City is being run by racist overlords who are evicting black and Latino families to make way for either highways or more expensive real estate developments. Alec Baldwin gets another chance to play the Trump-like figure who is destroying the city’s diverse neighborhoods to achieve his insatiable grab for power. …
Sarah Stone, The Wrap
…a laborious load of twaddle… a colossal bore… “Motherless Brooklyn” is so messy, confusing and pointless that you don’t know what’s going on half the time, and couldn’t care less. …
Rex Reed, The New York Observer
…A gorgeously shot glimpse of retro New York… Norton does a humanizing job of explaining Lionel’s unusual brain (he’s got a near-perfect memory) and defusing his outbursts with self-deprecation and humor. He also digs into the Moses scandal with an eye toward modern parallels. … [3/4]
Sara Stewart, New York Post
…very long—nearly two and a half hours—and extremely light on action and tension… feels like a glassy diorama of a gumshoe thriller… “Motherless Brooklyn” has all the markers of a good Oscar-season movie: a talented cast, worthy source material, a script loaded with complex social issues. Even so, it doesn’t add up to much. …
David Sims, The Atlantic
…a genre orphan in need of urgent cinematic foster care… What should have been the trickiest parts of this enterprise—elucidating the warm relationship between Essrog (Norton) and Minna (Bruce Willis), and Essrog’s Tourette syndrome—Norton handles with aplomb. The rest is a murky mess, unnecessarily dense and confusing for two hours, and then in the last 20 minutes, way too obvious…
Johanna Schneller, The Globe and Mail (Canada)