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5.0 out of 5 stars Good, well-paced story and excellent actors. Recommended!
Starring Robert DiNiro, this film is based on a true story. It's about a cop, himself the son of a convicted murderer, whose junkie son is wanted for murder. That's the theme, although the facts of the case were changed in order to make the film play well to the largest possible audience. Even the location was changed. It's supposed to take place in Long Beach, New...
Published on Nov. 23 2003 by Linda Linguvic

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of touching, but slow at times.
Summary:
The men in the LaMarca family have a pretty rough record. Angelo, Vincent's father (Robert De Niro), was electrocuted for the death of a small child he kidnapped for ransom. Vincent left his young son and wife when a heated argument turned into violence. Now Vincent's son, Joey (James Franco), has become a dopehead and murderer. Vincent has to overcome...
Published on May 24 2003


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4.0 out of 5 stars Good acting, Very Good storyline., May 27 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
This is a movie with a good handle on reality-- warts and all. It focusses on imperfect characters who feel completely real-- incuding DeNiro, whose acting, bad haircut, extra weight, and "average joe" clothing all successfully overcome our preconceived notion of DeNiro as a top-of-his-game mafiosa.
Instead, we see DeNiro, but AS THIS CHARACTER: a warts-and-all cop & bad father, looking for a second chance.
Also, DeNiro's star power doesn't overshadow this movie's second plotline, about a junkie (DeNiro's son), also looking for a second chance....and some kind of family life.
Likewise, the physical setting and peripheral relationships all have a REAL feel. Viewers will come away with the feeling that this is the seamy, redeemable side of real life.. a place you wouldn't want to live, but a state you can recover from.
*spoilers ahead. Stop reading now, if you hate spoilers.*
We get a happy ending, but not a Hollywood unbelievable ending. Some of the relationships STAY fractured, and other elements of the resolution also have that real, imperfect, but therefore acceptably non-saccharine happy ending.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Sins of the Fathers . . ., Feb. 27 2004
By 
Debbie Lee Wesselmann (the Lehigh Valley, PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
"City by the Sea" begins as a typical cop drama - Vincent DeMarca (Robert DeNiro) is a good solid New Jersey cop with a history. His father was executed as a "baby-killer", and now Vincent's own son Joey (James Franco), whom he abandoned as a young boy, is a strung out junkie suspected of killing DeMarca's partner. The scenes are predictably dingy and muted, with Frances McDormand popping out of her apartment now and then as DeMarca's girlfriend. The first part of this movie honestly felt like the pilot for a new television drama - with calculated character introductions and back story. But then something marvelous happens: the quality of the acting kicks in to elevate the film beyond its script. James Franco is astonishingly convincing as a junkie who both loves and despises his father, and DeNiro fools us into believing he's just an ordinary guy until the moment when all the layers are stripped off. Frances McDormand does a competent job with what she is given (not much) while adding a needed texture to DeMarca's life.
This film is probably the quietest cop drama I've ever seen because it's not about crimes one can be arrested for. It probes the fragile relationship between fathers and sons, and the obligations each needs to face. The film never picks up the slow paces it sets up in the beginning, so those hoping for the high action of traditional cop dramas will be disappointed. Make no mistake: this is a three-star movie raised to four stars by the performances of DeNiro and Franco. Still, the pivotal scene is a powerful one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A good movie trapped inside a bad one, Dec 6 2003
By 
Wheelchair Assassin (The Great Concavity) - See all my reviews
"City By The Sea" commits what is, in my opinion, the worst cinematic sin of all: wasted potential. Even with a cast featuring Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, and James Franco, this movie never quite gets off the ground. Or, to put it more accurately, it gets off the ground only to come crashing back to it as things wear on. The concept is promising enough: with his estranged junkie son on the run from a murder rap following a failed drug deal, De Niro's veteran homicide detective must try to bring him in safely while simultaneously facing up to his own shoddy record as a husband and father. This led me to expect an interesting take on the traditional cop fare, especially during the movie's admittedly strong first half. Set in New Jersey, "City By The Sea" is helped by the some great visuals of a decaying suburban landscape that perfectly augment its overall mood of despair.
The problem is, the people who made this movie don't know when to quit. This is the classic drama that tries too hard, becoming increasingly more earnest until it collapses under the weight of its own seriousness. One problem after another gets piled on the embattled De Niro, and it seems his principal response is to become ever more befuddled by his situation. With its combination of cop drama and family drama, "City By The Sea" takes on some serious subject matter, and it ends up becoming TOO serious, with nothing to lighten the emotional load on the audience, especially when the characters start speaking in sound bites and monologues. Even the occasional moments of humor found early on dissipate after a little while. The best and most entertaining thing about this movie is William Forsythe's mullet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good, well-paced story and excellent actors. Recommended!, Nov. 23 2003
By 
Linda Linguvic (New York City) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
Starring Robert DiNiro, this film is based on a true story. It's about a cop, himself the son of a convicted murderer, whose junkie son is wanted for murder. That's the theme, although the facts of the case were changed in order to make the film play well to the largest possible audience. Even the location was changed. It's supposed to take place in Long Beach, New York, a place I'm somewhat familiar with. However, the setting didn't look at all like the Long Beach I know. It was only later that I found out it was shot in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It might seem like a small detail to those not familiar with the geography. But to me it sounded a discordant note throughout.
This is a good story though and it didn't matter that it wasn't authentic. It was well written, well paced and called for exellent actors. James Franco is cast as Joey, the drug-addict son. He made me feel disgusted with him as well as sorry for him all at once as I got caught up in his escalating predicament and his resultant terrors. He's a fine actor and I can see him as a rising star to watch. Patti LuPone plays his divorced mother. I could see she felt love for her son in spite of her anger and feelings of hopelessness. Frances McDormand plays DiNiro's girlfriend. She's a wonderful actress, and this is a small part for her. She plays it well though and I could feel her conflicting emotions as she is forced to deal with DiNiro's guilt and psychological burden. There's also Eliza Dushku as the young mother of Joey's child, George Dzunda as DiNiro's cop partner and William Forsythe as the bad guy. All are excellent. But the film belongs entirely to DiNiro, who is such a good actor that we tend to take his magnificent performances for granted. In this film I could forget he was acting and identify with this man who was trying to hide his feelings. His suffering comes through clearly and I could relate to him completely, especially in the scenes with his baby grandson.
This will probably be considered a small movie by the critics and not worthy of awards. It a way it seems like just another well-done episode from a cop show on television. The plot is predictable. There are some scenes worthy of a soap opera. And it's all done with a low budget. But I wasn't bored for a moment, there were tears in my eyes, and I found each of the characters so well developed that my heart went out to each of them. Don't discount this film. It's worth seeing.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Long , Dull, Slow, and Ultimately Boring, Sept. 25 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
This movie never really gets off the ground. In its effort to develop the characters, it moves at a snail's pace with no significant action. The whole mood of the movie is utterly depressive and the dialogue is monotone.
The plot involves Robert DeNiro playing a seasoned cop who starts investigating the homicide of a drug pusher. He soon finds that his estranged son in the prime suspect in the homicide and is brought back into the torments of his failed family life.
Yes, the movie does touch upon a failed father's attempt to show his son that he's looking out for him but, with that low-life heroin fiend son of his, you wonder: why? The son is portrayed as such a pathetic loser that the film simply evokes no sympathy for him. I came out feeling more for Robert DeNiro's character in having to accept his conception of such a pathetic wretch for a son.
Altogether a very forgettable film that perhaps would have been better as a book or one of those cheesy made-for-tv "Lifetime" films.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Drama, July 8 2003
This review is from: City By the Sea (VHS Tape)
For potential viewers expecting an adrenaline-induced action-packed cop caper, please look elsewhere.
CITY BY THE SEA is about fathers and sons. It's about guilt, frustration, abandonment, estrangement. Yet despite the bleak tone established by this movie--along with a lethargic pace--the bond between father and son perseveres.
Robert De Niro is almost one-dimensional throughout most of his role as veteran Manhattan Police Detective Vincent LaMarca. Vince stays on a fairly even keel, even though the audience knows he's suppressing a ton of emotional baggage and guilt. When at last his troubled son is on the verge of being taken out by a very motivated police force, Vince lets everything spill out: his guilt, his remorse, his pain--his love. It was marvelous acting, chilling to the bone. And extremely effective.
James Franco and George Dzundza headline a wonderful supporting cast. Unfortunately, Frances McDormand's character added nothing to the story, other than a sense of frustration when she exhibits less than stellar loyalty to Vince upon learning about all of his troubles. CITY BY THE SEA is highly recommended for all fathers and sons who have had to mend some fences over the course of their relationships. You will be affected--guaranteed.
--D. Mikels
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not one of DeNiro's Better offerings, July 5 2003
I missed the cinematic release of this movie, and really rushed to view it on DVD when released, after seeing the trailers. Sadly for me the concept of the film and script seemed to part company after about a third of the way in, and began to point toward an all too predictable ending. DeNiro plays a street wise, tough respected cop of many years, who reflects with melancholy on the demise of his childhood vacations, and home life in the title location, now turned into a run down haven for drug addicts, bums and criminals. A long standing divorce and estranged son, add to his already overburdened lack of inner peace along with the revelations of his fathers criminal past, played in flashback sequences. The movie revolves around these attempted sub plots, and his lack of knowledge about his sons fall from high school football hero to petty thief and drug addict. The two inevitably cross paths when the son is accused of a murder, and the investigation falls under the auspices of DeNiro and his long time partner. DeNiro must then juggle his loyalties whilst upholding his beliefs, and attempt to seek the truth at all costs. Sound's great, doesn't it? - well I thought so too, until about half way into the picture, when I found myself really not caring about it all, and just watching for the sake of it. Like so many great actors, DeNiro really should find solid material these days, instead of just churning out "formula" like this, Not an awful movie by any means, but rent before you buy!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of touching, but slow at times., May 24 2003
Summary:
The men in the LaMarca family have a pretty rough record. Angelo, Vincent's father (Robert De Niro), was electrocuted for the death of a small child he kidnapped for ransom. Vincent left his young son and wife when a heated argument turned into violence. Now Vincent's son, Joey (James Franco), has become a dopehead and murderer. Vincent has to overcome his fear of loss to ultimately reach out to his son and help him from losing the people that he cares about.
My Comments:
I thought this was a pretty good movie. It kind of goes without saying that De Niro was good, he's always good. But the rest of the cast wasn't bad. They carried their weight and James Franco was actually pretty good, though not stellar.
The story was convincing; it doesn't require a major suspension of belief, though Joey definitely is at the bottom of the bucket and can't really get much lower. Sure, there are a few parts that are a bit over the top, but for the most part the storyline is believable. There were just two parts to the entire movie that I really felt were flawed - when Vincent took the bullet for Joey (a sniper's bullet would have taken his arm off) and when Joey told Vincent that he loved him through the rear window of the police cruiser (just didn't work very well). Of course, there were the 'set-up' plot points, like Joey stealing the gun just before Spyder (William Forsythe) comes after him, and Reg (George Dzundza) sticking his head where it doesn't belong, but overall the story wasn't that bad.
The problem with the movie is that it's slow. The pacing could have been improved, especially during the thirty minutes or so after the initial murder took place. I also thought the relationship between Vincent and Michelle (Frances McDormand) could have been better explored. The ending of the movie was also kind of unsatisfying because you don't ultimately know what happens to everyone except Joey, Vincent, and Little Angelo. Michelle is definitely a major character in the movie, and so is Gina (Eliza Dushku) and Maggie (Patti LuPone), Joey's mother.
The movie ends up being pretty touching, but it kind of takes a while to get there. It doesn't really keep your attention throughout, but you're kind of glad that you watched it when it's over because it leaves you on a positive, self-reflecting note. The final scene is really touching, in large part thanks to De Niro. So, if you're a De Niro fan, you'll want to see this one. If you have issues with your father, this may be a good film for you to see too. Keep in mind that it is a little slow, but it does eventually get there.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Which city by the sea?, March 22 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
Anything with DeNiro is right up ther on my list and no matter how good or bad the reviews were, I knew I would see the movie. On a scale of 1-5, the movie itself was about a 3. The overall story was good. The acting was great. The one flaw that dropped the movie from a 4-5 star to a 3 was the direction and production. This movie falsely portrayed the city in which it was set. It is not until the very, very, very end- after all the credits and music notes and year of filming that it is revealed that the movie is not, in any part, filmed in Long Beach. I would have enjoyed the movie much more had I not known the truth about Long Beach. I have lived here all my life and know that nothing was accurately presented in the movie. The city was portrayed as a slum. Had the actual setting of the true story been revealed, the movie would have taken on another angle. So, is the movie worth watching? Yes, it is. Is it true to life and factual? Does it present the whole story? No As biased as the reviewer may be, he still recognizes a good movie, albeit, a flawed cinematographic layout. Watch the movie if you like crime drama and a good story. Don't watch it if you are planning on researching a summer vacation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Honestly..., March 12 2003
This review is from: City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
This movie had its originality.
Robert De Niro is a detective trying to solve a murder case, unfortunately suspected to be caused by his own son.
The main focus in this movie is not exactly the 'action' the audiences were looking for. It was not much of a cop-and-car-chase kind of movie. And not quite a solve or unsolved mystery thriller either. It was generally a drama about the relationship between father and son -- and the turmoils of abandonment (turning to drugs, having family insecurity, basically all of the above in the long list of tragic, weaker decisions in coping with family problems).
In short, the essentials needed in order to make a decent film fit just fine. The 4 stars are given, only because the drama may have been much more felt if it had given the audience a better understanding of the characters and their development. The way De Niro leaves his family, and then becomes concerned for his son happened all too quickly. It seemed to have lacked something. I'm no Ebert, so I can't really put my thought on it.
Then again it's just a movie. See it.
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City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import]
City by the Sea (Widescreen) [Import] by Michael Caton-Jones (DVD - 2002)
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