Killer Gene?
City by the Sea
Review by Ross Anthony

De Niro delivers a solid, though seldom sparkling performance, as New York detective LaMarca protecting a buried past that took him his whole life to live down. A likewise strong and even more gripping presence, James Franco graces screen as LaMarca's junkie son stirring up fatal echoes of that past while challenging the present calm. Frances City by the SeaMcDormand is also steadfast as LaMarca's safe-on-simmer love interest, unfortunately her involvement in this picture is minimal. She's a top-notch actress and worth catching in more juicy roles like "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Fargo" just to name two.

But this film also has its share of actors unable to hit their marks. Coupled with sometimes cliché, and often average, dialogue the script offers very little of interest during the entire first half.

It's not until LaMarca decides to open up a bit to the girlfriend that the picture engages the audience. It's actually a wonderful scene, but the investment toward its build may have broke the bank. Dipping into another lull, the film does ascend again to a powerful, despite contrived, conclusion.

De Niro's LaMarca personality commands the most interest as a character study, but, like "Blood Work," the 70's cop show feel dulls its edge.

Sullen and somber like "Road to Perdition," occasionally over-scored musically, "City by the Sea" just can't quite keep its pilot light burning.

Here's an interesting bit from the production notes: Despite the differences between his real life experience and the film adaptation, "City by the Sea" still resonates with Vincent LaMarca. "There's a scene in which my character talks about how he felt about his father, how he dealt with his son and how his son felt about him," says LaMarca. "That more than rang a bell when I was watching the movie -- they did that very well. I'm not quite sure how they did it so well, but they did, they caught an awful lot."

  • City by the Sea. Copyright © 2002. Rated R.
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe, George Dzundza.
  • Directed by Michael Caton-Jones.
  • Written by Ken Hixon, based on the article by Michael McAlary.
  • Produced by Brad Grey, Elie Samaha, Michael Caton-Jones, Matthew Baer at Franchise/Warner Bros.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:16:48 PDT