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on May 11, 2016
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on September 13, 2015
If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed cop thriller, give this a miss. It's a (at times painfully) slow paced, brooding study of a cop attempting to connect with his adult junkie son after ignoring his existence for years. De Niro is unconvincing as the dad, working way too hard to seem sincere while struggling to deliver unrealistic, turgid dialogue that often tends to speechifying. On the plus side, Franco is brilliant as the junkie son and McDormand is solid as the cop's doormat squeeze. Dushku fans beware: she has very little screentime. It's watchable, but the characters never really engaged me and I would have expected so much more from a talented director like Caton-Jones. The reviewer quoted on the case said "Fast paced. thrilling and deeply moving. De Niro is brilliant." Guess he saw a different movie.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon July 14, 2015
Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) is a police officer who has problems with intimacy, sharing, and commitment. These issues are reflected in his estranged son Joey (James Franco) who is a drug user and is wanted for murder of a drug dealer named Picasso (Jay Boryea), a murder he did commit. Frances McDormand plays Michelle, the girlfriend of LaMarca, someone who Di Niro has a hard time confiding in. Eliza Dushku is Joey's drug using girlfriend.

As De Niro and the cops are looking for Joey, so is Spyder (William Forsythe) the drug partner of dead Picasso. This is low action cop drama, which delves into the character of LaMarca, and is perhaps a study in psychology on how we are affected by our relationships with our father. The drama overshadows the crime aspect of the story. Well acted, directed etc. I just wasn't overly entertained by the film...and I blame my father for that.

PARENTAL GUIDE: F-bomb, no sex, no nudity.
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on March 24, 2004
City By The Sea is an excellent video for my collection of
DeNiro movies, keep up the excellent movie making.
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on February 27, 2004
"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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on December 6, 2003
"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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on November 23, 2003
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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on November 3, 2003
Vincent LaMarca,otherwise the famous De Niro, is a respected homicide detective of NYC but soon he's faced with the toughest case ever. His son Joey, is involved in a murder and he's on the run - haunted by a gangster and law too. Who will be the first to catch him???
Vincent's life gets harder each day. At the same time he has to serve the law but also try to save his son from a crime he could have never committed!
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on October 10, 2003
Robert DeNiro and James Franco make this movie work, with son accused of killiing a cop and a father who wants to bring in his son alive and not dead. the end is washedout and leaves no suspense(when DeNiro gets shot in the back). but in the end is works out and its a great view. Eliza Dushku is great also as Franco's wife and McDormand is added nicely in as Franco's momma
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on July 8, 2003
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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