As the director, Edward Norton brings us back to the time when film noir was in vogue. The setting is in the middle fifties but feels more like the 40s.
Norton’s Lionel Essrog has been motherless since he was six years old, and his friend Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) also an orphan always refers to Lionel as Brooklyn. Frank and Brooklyn are part of a four member team of private eyes who are doing Ok, but not great with their work.
Lionel has an affliction which causes him to suddenly speak out wildly and many of his actions, like touching someone take place three times in a row. That and his spurt of activity turn off some people and leave folks to believe he is not a capable a detective. But he is better than most believe.
Early on best friend Frank is killed leaving just three detectives in the office. Frank has acted somewhat as a parent for Brooklyn and his death sets the young sleuth into action to solve the murder. The investigation reaches into politics in New York City and the public works process in the city.
Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph is the behind the scenes mover and shaker behind the new Mayor and apparently is working to remove tenants from certain apartments so the land can be used for new highways.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose is the attractive young Harlem daughter who works to protect the tenants in the way of Moses. Brooklyn senses that she is the key to solving the mystery and finding the culprits who killed Frank. Along with her Paul Randolph (Willem Dafoe) is a somewhat dark character moving in and out of visability in many scenes.
The atmosphere set by Norton is nicely fitting for the period in time, the store fronts look as they might have been in the fifties and he places cars such as Hudsons, Studebakers, Dodges and some Chevrolets on the streets. The opulent office of Moses with large wall paintings similar to those in certain New York State locations and in the Harry Truman Presidential Library cover the walls.
Brooklyn lives very near the Brooklyn Bridge and next to the elevated subway train rails in a small dingy apartment, sort of what we expect from a cheep detective.
Laura Rose lives above a nightclub in which her father is the owner and a performer each night.
She is more important to the solution than we expect. In fact everyone in the cast is somewhat involved in the murder, either through knowledge, activity or relationships.
The weaving of the answer through the city scape and the many characters holds our interest as Director Norton comfortably brings us to understand public works development and a murder in New York City about seventy years ago.