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City by the Sea (2002)

When youre searching for a killer…the last suspect you want to see is your son.

Directed by:

Michael Caton-Jones

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 108 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Robert De Niro stars as New York City homicide detective Vincent LaMarca. After a long and distinguished career, he has made a name for himself as a dedicated man committed to his work. However, his latest case poses more of a personal challenge, since the suspect he is investigating for murder is his own estranged son (James Franco). Vincent and Joey have been at loggerheads ever since Vincent’s divorce, when he chose to leave Long Beach, Long Island for the anonymity of Manhattan. Vincent has kept his personal life at a distance ever since, including that with his girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand). His closest relationship is that with his work partner Reg (George Dzundza) – a relationship that he leaves strictly at work.

Now Vincent has to deal with the pain of his past and the grief over his broken relationship with Joey. The murder investigation will draw Vincent back to Long Beach once more, and back into the memories he thought he had left behind. Those memories include the death of his father, a convicted murderer executed when he was just a boy. In the course of his investigation, he will learn that his own unresolved pain has deeply influenced Joey’s life, and even his 18-month-old grandson may not be spared the destructive legacy of the family’s past. His professional dedication to bringing the killer to justice will conflict with his desire to save his son.

‘City by the Sea’ is above-average, but only just, largely through the efforts of its cast. De Niro is by far and away the best thing about the film, which is no real surprise, and the other cast members seem to rise to the occasion. The plot itself is rather weak and doesn’t really grab attention. This is a wordy film – the characters often have long melodramatic lines, with many of the scenes heavy in text and thin in action. Decent cinematography and atmospheric locations can’t disguise the fact that the screenplay is not entirely up to scratch and lacks conviction. Thankfully the good performances from De Niro and others prove that a good cast can make a decent film out of a poor story.

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It's Got: Fine performances from the majority of the cast.

It Needs: A stronger and more effective plot.

DVD Extras An insight into filmmaking and a commentary add value to this single-disc release. Extras: Writer and producer commentary, Six Words About Filmmaking with Michael Caton-Jones, Trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Black Rain., LA Confidential, Rising Sun

Summary

Crime drama featuring a cop’s dysfunctional family that features a strong cast but needs more conviction.

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