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City by the Sea (2002)


Average Rating: 5.8/10
Reviews Counted: 142
Fresh: 68
Rotten: 74

Critics Consensus: Even though the movie is well acted, it sinks under an abundance of melodrama and cliches.

Average Rating: 5.8/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 18
Rotten: 18

Critics Consensus: Even though the movie is well acted, it sinks under an abundance of melodrama and cliches.


Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 15,939


Movie Info

A man struggling to come to terms with the sins of his father makes the terrible discovery that his own son has fallen into a life of crime in a drama based on a true story. Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro) is a dedicated and well-respected New York City police detective who has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his past; four decades earlier, Vincent's father Angelo killed a young child, and since then Vincent has carried emotional scars from this incident that he refuses to show to … More

R (for language, drug use and some violence)
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Ken Hixon , Michael Caton-Jones , Frank R. Pierson
In Theaters:
Feb 18, 2003
Box Office:
Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for City by the Sea

All Critics (160) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (68) | Rotten (74) | DVD (24)

A compendium of clichés about fathers and sons.

Full Review… | September 26, 2002
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

A film that doesn't just support the action to come, but makes it seem inevitable.

Full Review… | September 11, 2002
Top Critic

De Niro's workmanlike in a dismayingly familiar role.

Full Review… | September 6, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

I like everything about it except it.

Full Review… | September 6, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

It's a run-of-the-mill cop thriller but also a gripping family drama.

Full Review… | September 6, 2002
USA Today
Top Critic

The real Vincent LaMarca has lived a life that's the stuff of Greek tragedy. Too bad this film can't quite do it justice.

Full Review… | September 6, 2002
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Ambitious, improbable and very violent cop drama.

Full Review… | December 22, 2010
Common Sense Media

The film ends up as shallow as the thankless love interest role Frances McDormand somehow agreed to play here.

Full Review… | December 28, 2008

Filmmaker Micahel Caton-Jones serves up an edgy drama filled with tragically flawed characters portrayed by Robert De Niro, James Franco and Frances MacDormand.

Full Review… | July 2, 2008
IGN Movies

Caton-Jones ... understands that this story is not about how all the details work out, but about one man's heart and his slow awakening to moral responsibility.

January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

If Rebel Without a Cause were told from the father's perspective, the result would probably be something like City by the Sea.

Full Review… | January 6, 2004
Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)

We watch an esteemed actor discovering new nuances. In turn, it's a sublime reminder of the qualities that made Robert De Niro great, not a gimmick.

Full Review… | June 26, 2003

O Último Suspeito ganha força ao também funcionar em uma esfera adicional: a do drama familiar.

Full Review… | May 7, 2003
Cinema em Cena

...A showcase for excellent acting by some older, established performers and also some newer faces.

Full Review… | February 8, 2003
Film Quips Online

...a dark, brooding, depressing tale, unrelieved by the humor or irony the writer of a fictional story might have brought to the screen.

February 6, 2003
Movie Metropolis

'Yet another exhausted Robert De Niro cop vehicle.'

Full Review… | January 16, 2003

A tough film that works better as a gripping character study than as a movie, but still is well worth the time.

Full Review… | January 7, 2003
Hot Button

Seeing De Niro back in drama is the high point of this uneven, fact-based film.

Full Review… | November 7, 2002

I hate wastefulness, and I'm sorry to say that this film wastes everything -- fine actors, an intriguing story, and viewers' time.

Full Review… | October 21, 2002
San Diego Metropolitan

City by the sea es un recorrido por los vericuetos emocionales emanados de las malas relaciones padre-hijo y sus consecuencias

October 18, 2002

...little more than a well-acted television melodrama shot for the big screen.

Full Review… | October 15, 2002
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Sombre, unpretentious and quietly moving.

Full Review… | October 7, 2002

...worth checking out for the performances.

Full Review… | October 5, 2002
Reel Film Reviews

The final ten minutes is enough to extinguish my fire for the rest.

Full Review… | October 4, 2002
Film Snobs

For me, acting rarely makes or breaks a movie, but there's so much heart invested in the characters at the centre of this film that I found myself captivated, for just a while, by the troubles of those people up on the screen.

September 30, 2002
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

Audience Reviews for City by the Sea


3 3/4's--I rather liked this for what it's worth. Not a big blockbuster movie. A little slow, but it contains some really good actors...minus William Forsythe. I cringe when I see him in movies. All in all, this was an interesting film, and it was a lot better than I had anticipated. Excellent performances by both De Niro, Franco, and Mc Dormand.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

Michael Caton-Jones takes the helm for this low-key crime thriller about a veteran cop named Vincent LaMarca who becomes conflicted when he learns that the latest murder suspect he's after happens to be his estranged son Joey LaMarca, a troubled junkie.

Grim, gritty, and a tad grungy, this should be a great movie. It's got nice atmosphere, a decent set up, and a cast that includes Robert De Niro, James Franco, Frances McDormand, William Forsythe, and Eliza Dushku. However, this just kinda falls flat, especially towards the end.

It all starts off decently though, but the film ultimately lacks a strong amount of energy and drive, so the potential for greatness gets squandered, and the film just kinda drifts along without much purpose a lot of the time.

The performances are decent, though, and I like the location shooting, but in the end, this really isn't strong enough to warrant much of a recommendation. It comes close, though.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Vincent LaMarca: How'd we get this way son? I remember the day you were born. 
Joey: Yeah? Well, I remember the day you left. So we're even. 

"When you're searching for a killer... the last suspect you want to see is your son."

This is a very average movie with a few great actors and a couple horrible ones. With a better bad guy, this could have been a lot better, but they went the route of William Forsythe and that hurt the movie a lot. Then they threw in Elisha Dushku as Gina and that's pretty much a death sentence for any movie. Robert De Niro, James Franco and Frances McDormand do what they can to save this film from being what it is, but it isn't enough.

Vincent LaMarca is a cop who's father was executed for the murder of a baby when he was just eight years old. Now he is investigating a case of a murdered drug dealer and the prime suspect is his son, who he hasn't seen in many years. He has quite a conundrum on his hands. He has to decide how to play this thing. Then more and more things come to the surface which makes it harder and harder for Vincent to act on any impulse. 

City by the Sea isn't a horrible movie only because of the three excellent actors the film has. Without them, this would have only been a laughable, cliche, and extremely dull film. With them it manages to be entertaining to an extent. Just not enough to overcome the predictable story line and some of the other performances from actors that aren't excellent.

It is worth a watch if you really like De Niro or Franco. Just don't expect to be blown away by it.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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

Good movie. Very good acting role by Robert De Niro as always brings his best. James Franco did a superb job too as a junkie on the run. The story was sad and depressing in a way and I can imagine what a dad must feel like in that situation. All-around a fair enough good solid movie.

New York City homicide detective Vincent LaMarca has forged a long and distinguished career in law enforcement, making a name for himself as a man intensely committed to his work. But on his latest case, the stakes are higher for Vincent--the suspect he's investigating is his own son. He and Joey have been painfully estranged ever since Vincent divorced his wife and left the decaying boardwalks of Long Beach, Long Island for the anonymity of Manhattan and a successful career with the NYPD. He lives his life in solitude, keeping his girlfriend at arm's length; the closest relationship he maintains is with his partner, Reg--and Vincent makes sure that stops at the precinct door. As long as Vincent lives in the protection of the present, he doesn't have to deal with the pain of his past--or his sorrow over his broken relationship with Joey. But this murder investigation is drawing Vincent home to Long Beach, the self-proclaimed City by the Sea, where the past has been waiting for him to return. The agonizing memory that has tortured him all his life--the death of his father, a convicted murderer who was executed when Vincent was just a boy--still plagues him. In the course of the investigation, he discovers that his own unresolved pain and failures as a father have deeply influenced Joey's life, and now his 18-month-old grandson may be fated to follow their self-destructive paths.

Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

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