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Frequently, my favorite films are those that get about 50 percent on the Tomatometer. That usually indicates that a film is flawed in certain ways but admittedly has redeeming qualities.
In the case of "City by the Sea," my advice is to ignore the naysayers. DeNiro is excellent here, considering what he has to work with. Yes, some of the dialogue is a bit stilted, and there is so much deep backstory concerning the characters that it's hard to explore everything in depth in an hour and 49 minutes. And, improbable as the story may seem, it really happened and was chronicled in a 1997 Esquire article.
DeNori does taciturn better than anybody, but when it comes time to let loose emotionally, he delivers big time. In this film, there's a lot of sentimentality in the ending that some critics seemed to disdain. Well, what could be more sentimental than a father's love for his son, especially a father who abandoned him in his childhood?
France McDormand is a welcome presence as DeNiro's middle-aged girlfriend. The two work together with the comfort and confidence of real pros.
James Franco is strong as DeNiro's hapless junkie son. George Dzundza is also strong as the cop partner. He's so loveable that we figure he's going to be killed, and we're right.
William Forsythe plays a bad guy. Eliza Dushky plays the son's girlfriend who is raising their little boy. That's about it. Neither turns in much of a performance, but their parts are underwritten out of necessity.
Patti LuPone suffers that same fate--underwritten part, angry ex-wife.....She does her best.
Long Beach, the "city by the sea" (The film was actually shot in the seedier parts of Atlantic City), looks like a wasteland, with abandoned buildings full of junkie needles, trashed amusement park games, graffiti everywhere, and lots of broken windows. It's an intriguing setting, beautifully photographed.
Regardless of its minor shortcomings, this film is 100 percent DeNiro. He's the right actor to play an inner-directed, tightly closed, tortured man. And when he finally opens up and releases his angst, we get our money's worth. He's still, at the time of this film, 2002, one of our greatest actors.
One more comment on the "sentimental: ending. Whe DeNiro's son is being hauled away in a cop car at the end, he looks at his dad through the back window and mouths the words, "I love you." DeNiro says nothing, but his face says it all. Even for a hard core cynic like me, it brought a tear to my eye.
A good film, not perfect, but well worth a watch.
City by the Sea doesn't seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be: the waxy nostalgia for Long Beach undercuts any of the hard crime story it's going for, and the hint at family redemption on the other side of the father-son conflict coin feels contrived; the insistent score reminded me that no one really makes movies this way anymore, which I think is a good thing, and the fact that most of the dialogue is little more than exposition (when it's not characters sappily pleading platitudes to each other) makes a strong argument against trying to please everyone that the film-maker should heed the next time out.
3/16/2014: Other than the very good cast, this was a very dull and uninteresting movie.
A surprisingly restrained performance by Bob Deniro is a welcome one, but isn't enough to turn this thick melodrama into something great. It's a shame Caton-Jones dwelled for so long (3 years) in the editing room on how to perfect City by the Sea, becoming depressed in the process and calling it the "low-point" of his career, only to muster this vapid schmaltz. The fact that the film is apparently based on true events is the only thing that saved it from becoming one big cliche. It's not a terrible film, I never wanted to turn it off, but the amount of talent involved left me feeling jilted.
It is your average American Joe police thriller but also it is a family drama that does provide some emotion to it and De Niro does well in his usual role as a well respected cop it could have been better but I have seen worse
Too much melodrama with a decent cast. Seems like a cable tv flick rather than a fully cooked feature. I think the fault is in direction, and perhaps in better hands, it could have been a little better. Otherwise, not memorable a bit.
Really good crime drama and a redemptive story abut not repeating one's mistake's. An excellent cast all give really poignant performances.
1972's The Godfather Is My Fourth Favorite Film Of All Time.
I got to say that "City by the Sea" is surprisingly a good movie. "It's gripping and intense." The performances in this movie are fine. "Robert De Niro is outstanding. And James Franco gives a remarkable performances in this movie." The directing by Michael Caton-Jones is good. The screenplay by Ken Hixon and Frank R. Pierson is good as well. And the score in this movie is very mellow.
Deniros strong performance can't overcome the fact this movie is full of family cliches, and a very predictable direction. The ending is sort of entertaining and emotional in the sense of family but it's something we have seen many times before. Deniros kid played by James Franco is accused of murder leaving deniro with questions. At the same time we learn that he abandoned franco when young to add tension to the situation. Nothing original here.