City by the Sea (2002)



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

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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 the world. Vincent lives alone in a small apartment building, though he has nurtured a close if tentative relationship with his downstairs neighbor, Michelle (Frances McDormand). One day, Vincent and his partner, Reg Duffy (George Dzundza), are assigned to investigate a murder when the body of a young man is found dead in a dumpster. It turns out the body was that of a drug dealer, and the dealer's partner in crime, Spyder (William Forsythe), believes the killer was one of his regular customers -- a junkie would-be musician who calls himself Snake (Brian Tarantina). City By the Sea was adapted from a piece by journalist Mike McAlary which first appeared in Esquire magazine; the cast also includes Eliza Dushku and Anson Mount.
R (for language, drug use and some violence)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
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Robert De Niro
as Det. Vincent La Marca
James Franco
as Joseph `Joey' Nova
George Dzundza
as Reg Duffy
Patti LuPone
as Maggie
Anson Mount
as Dave Simon
John Doman
as Capt. Henderson
Drena De Niro
as Vanessa Hansen
Leo Burmeister
as Lieutenant Katt
Linda Emond
as Margery
Jay M. Boryea
as Picasso
Leo Burmester
as Lieutenant Katt
Gregg Edelman
as A.P.C. Johnson
Mark La Mura
as Mayor Jackson
Teresa Kelsey
as Reporter Laura
Michael Dellafemina
as Angelo LaMarca
Jim Marcus
as Medical Examiner
Joanne Lamstein
as Screaming Teen
Teresa Woods
as Reporter Carol
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Critic Reviews for City by the Sea

All Critics (143) | Top Critics (36)

A compendium of clichés about fathers and sons.

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.

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.

September 6, 2002
Seattle Times
Top Critic

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.
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
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
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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