Edward Norton wrote, directed, and stars in this sprawling noir that follows a private eye whose investigation into a murder uncovers a vast web of corruption.
New York private detective Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) has Tourette syndrome and a flawless memory for details. While his tics make social connection difficult, Lionel’s memory is an undoubted asset to his boss, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). But when one of Frank’s missions goes awry, Lionel is left to piece together the mystery of his mentor’s final job. What he encounters is a deep, shadowy network of corruption and crime, stemming from the poor neighborhoods of Brooklyn and jazz joints of Harlem to the upper echelons of City Hall. Along the way, he’s increasingly drawn to impassioned community activist Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) whose work advocating for poor tenants may be leading her into the dangerous orbit of terrifyingly ruthless Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a city planner hellbent on modernization at any cost. To bring this sprawling saga to life, Norton has assembled one of the finest supporting casts in recent memory, including Willem Defoe as an addled engineering genius, Cherry Jones as a Jane Jacobs-esque activist spitfire, and Bobby Cannavale as Lionel’s slippery fellow gumshoe. Creatively adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s acclaimed postmodern novel, the film shifts the setting to the 1950s and meticulously re-creates the look and feel of a bygone era. With nods to Chinatown, the film is an homage to the rich tradition of film noir and to the complex social history of New York City. More than just a crackerjack thriller, it’s an incisive exploration of the ways class and racial inequality were woven into the fabric of New York life, creating the fractured metropolis we know today.
CAST: EDWARD NORTON, BRUCE WILLIS, GUGU MBATHA-RAW, BOBBY CANNAVALE
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