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John Turturro, others bring ‘Brooklyn Contingent’ to new Batman movie

March 14, 2022 Evan Rosen, Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
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Matt Reeves’s latest film, “The Batman,” takes place in Gotham City; a fictional metropolis which cannot be mistaken for a cinematized, dystopian New York City where downtrodden graffitied subway cars, overflowing trash cans, and crime all pervade unperturbed. It’s the perfect dramatic backdrop to this darker, edgier take on the Caped Crusader, but would’ve fallen flat without the searing performances of the actors who inhabited it and made it real. Robert Pattinson’s supporting cast includes some heavy hitters who pull no punches, and who bring Brooklyn with them into this newly realized city that certainly never sleeps. 

Acting legend and Brooklyn’s own John Turturro has arguably the biggest impact in fleshing out this world, taking on the role of crime boss Carmine Falcone. His authentic but subtle Brooklyn accent, eerily smooth mannerisms and effervescent charm bring you into a world where not all villains are chummy, uncomfortable, or deformed. Some, as with his, are devastatingly cool. He embodies a kingpin in a way that is all his own, and an entirely new shade from any from his previous roles in his vast and triumphant catalog. 

Turturro was born in Brooklyn in 1957 and still calls the borough home. In a recent interview with Esquire Magazine, Turturro talked about a “Brooklyn Contingent” of actors, which writer/director Matt Reeves brought in as part of an effort to make the movie weightier and less like the commercial superhero flicks we’ve come to know. 

John Turturro appears in a scene from "The Night Of.” HBO via AP
John Turturro. HBO via AP

“You could tell by the casting what he was going for,” Turturro said. “You started hearing about who else was in the film, and incidentally we all live within a couple of blocks of each other [in Brooklyn]. There’s at least five of us in the film that could walk to each other’s apartments.”

While it’s difficult to speculate who these “five” are, and tougher still to figure where celebrities reside permanently, here’s what we do know: 

Actor and writer/director Paul Dano, who plays the Riddler, resides in Boerum Hill with wife and actress/writer Zoe Kazan, according to his recent feature in the Times. He gives a completely unhinged and unsettling take on the mastermind behind the plot’s unraveling. We only see his face for several moments in the film, during which the madness in his eyes and squeaky vocal intonations conjure up the notion of a capable killer – an amalgamation of all the villains we’ve come to know in our country over the years who exist on the fringe of society and largely now on social media. A deft and capable chameleon, it appeared from his 2018 directorial debut Wildlife, that Mr. Dano may be just as talented in other capacities. 

Actor Jeffrey Wright. Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Jeffrey Wright might be having the biggest year of any supporting actor. After significant parts in The French Dispatch and No Time to Die in 2021, Wright – who called Brooklyn home, at least as of 2015 – comes into The Batman as a young Commissioner Gordon, heavily leaning on and advocating for Batman, a “freak” as other policemen call him. Wright’s genuineness and humanity are on full display here as an incorruptible cop lost in the fray. But more than that, his deep, melodic and threatening voice lends the movie the bite and next-level detective/noir-feel it so badly craves. His delivery often verges on a lingering indulgence, bathing us in the drama or the intensity of a scene. In any other movie it would be a turn off, but here it captures the unruly rawness that Reeves wants, and flows excellently with the lingering rage of the pacing and music. 

Another A-lister who calls Brooklyn home is actress, singer and model Zoë Kravitz. Her Williamsburg abode was recently featured in Hello! Magazine, and serves as evidence that many big time stars who are not originally from New York, are still seeking out Brooklyn as a landing spot and haven from the rigors of Hollywood. She plays Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in the film, a love-interest and fateful partner to the manic Bruce Wayne. Her character does indeed serve as the social conscience of the film, as critic Anthony Lane notes for the New Yorker, but Kravitz is more than that. She’s the perfect counterpart for Pattinson. Matching him stride for stride in intensity, sexiness, intelligence and physical ability. For all the competition on-screen, her performance may have been the most human and grounded of anyone. 

Zoe Kravitz.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Many other amazing performances were turned in. I would be remiss not to mention the unrecognizable and incredibly fun transformation of Colin Farrell as the Penguin, or the startling gift of Con O’Neill’s raspy voice as he gets up in the face of Robert Pattinson. So many characters conjoined to make this portrayal of Gotham stand above any which have come before it.

The movie as a whole is a contradiction of itself – one big pendulum swing. It goes so dark, so intense, so dramatic, that it ostensibly becomes light, even humorous. Many will note some awkward laughter in theaters during supposedly critical moments. Whether the laughs are intentional or not, is up for debate; either way, it’s enjoyable and deeply engaging. Reeves creates a world that is always deadly serious, where it is always raining and the city is always in shambles. It’s weird. And were a movie to not emphasize this mood so heavily, it would not be as fun. “The Batman’s” weirdness is what gives it wings. There are just as many parts that hit their mark as those that swing and miss. But all is forgiven due to the commitment and skill of the acting, as well as the world that Reeves has created. It was, in his casting, that part of the realness and authenticity of Brooklyn was given a chance to imbue the scenes in Gotham with its gritty spirit. I hope to be seeing much more of this “Brooklyn Contingent” gracing us with their presence on the silver screen. Even if I don’t know exactly who they are. 

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