“Motherless Brooklyn,” February 11, 2020 (2019), DVD. Edward Norton, an actor whose work I really enjoy, read the Jonathon Lethem novel this is based on in manuscript, bought the rights, produced, wrote, directed and starred in this Wynton Marsalis-jazz infused noir fable of power, corruption, struggle, and resolute friendship. He moved it from our present to a 1950s New York City whose slogan should be “forget it Jake, its Chinatown.” Lionel Essrog has Tourette’s Syndrome. He’s a mass of verbal and physical ticks slowed down at night by reefer. He’s smart, with a remarkable memory and obsessive intelligence, but not in control. He is the title character, plucked from a brutal orphanage by private detective Frank Millis (Bruce Willis) who is killed as he plays a dangerous game with the powers that really run the city. And who are these powers? Whereas “Chinatown” looked at control of water and land, these New Yorkers are the builders of highways, bridges, parks, projects, beaches, etc. Their chief, the man who truly runs NYC, is, not subtly, Moses Reynolds (Alec Baldwin). Neighborhoods, especially African-American neighborhoods and residents, are pawns to be broken and moved for the greater ‘good’ of development, as he understands it. Race is very much at the heart of this story. There are lovely turns by Michael Kenneth Williams as the trumpeter and Gugu Mbatha Raw as Laura Rose, a housing advocate and attorney. I’ve always thought that effective noir involves very taut progression joined to the darkness. I felt that this meandered a bit and, as it did, lost the tension that makes this style of film work. The setting is fine, the exposition over-long with too much devoted to his ticks, and excessively melodramatic. Still, I’m glad I watched this effort and think there are excellent things to come from Norton. Perhaps if he chose to star or direct? See the feature on making the film that comes with the DVD.