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CITY BY THE SEA

Trying hard not to sink

Starring: Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco , Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones, Running time: 108 min., Rating: 5 out of 10
INSPIRED by the 1997 Esquire article Mark of a Murderer, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Mike McAlary, City by the Sea tells the dark story of a dedicated New York City police detective who discovers that the chief suspect in his current murder investigation is his own son.
As Vincent La Marca (Robert De Niro) investigates the murder of a Long Beach drug dealer, it becomes obvious that his junkie son, Joey (James Franco), is the prime suspect.


A FATHER and son story.
photo: Continental Film

Starring: Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco , Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones, Running time: 108 min., Rating: 5 out of 10

INSPIRED by the 1997 Esquire article Mark of a Murderer, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Mike McAlary, City by the Sea tells the dark story of a dedicated New York City police detective who discovers that the chief suspect in his current murder investigation is his own son.

As Vincent La Marca (Robert De Niro) investigates the murder of a Long Beach drug dealer, it becomes obvious that his junkie son, Joey (James Franco), is the prime suspect. La Marca, who never put up with his father being a criminal, now must decide between being a cop or a father.


WILL La Marca save his son?
photo: Continental Film

Shadows from the past come back to haunt La Marca, which is suggested by scenes where he holds his head while hearing voices fighting among themselves. His father was sentenced to death for killing a child who he kidnapped and then accidentally suffocated. Now he asks himself if there is a possibility that his son might have inherited the "killer genes". Deciding to stand by Joey, he betrays the law he has always fought for.

The outstanding performances of the actors sometimes struggle with the story's inability to create interest. De Niro probably couldn't be bad in any movie. He puts deep passion into his roles and saves a lot of scenes with his great acting. Even more interesting is Franco as Joey, making the character of a heroin user very believable. Frances McDormand, who plays La Marca's girlfriend, creates an intimate atmosphere with small gestures or just the look in her eyes.

Visually, though, the City by the Sea is rather dull and uneven, perfectly copying the dysfunctional relationships in the story. The plain and empty coast of Long Beach turns out to be a good place for conjuring ones' past. The beach's atmosphere also best describes the entire movie - too much is told and not enough shown.

It's not easy to follow the story and stay interested. One must try extremely hard to concentrate on the interpersonal drama hiding underneath the stiff dialogue, portraying the universal struggle of man and his fate.

The movie ends in a very melodramatic way as La Marca succeeds in protecting his son at all costs and finds a way into his son's heart. And it works well, as the movie finally manages to grab the viewer's attention for a while.

Even though while watching City by the Sea you may feel you have seen all this before, it is worth seeing just for the great cast.

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