City by the Sea

By Mark Ramsey | 2002/09/07

Is City by the Sea a movie or a retirement community? Either way, this movie puts the “bored” in shuffleboard, friends.

It’s never a good sign when a preview audience is so old, the Cretaceous period is referred to as “back in the day.” Maybe City by the Sea has strong “want-to-see” among these folks because at their age, who doesn’t? It was either Mae or Cora who hollered “Bingo!”


For the umpteenth time, Robert DeNiro is a cop. Since when does NYPD stand for “New York Police DeNiro“? And once again, DeNiro’s gut is spilling over that thin blue line called a belt. No one can take you down to Chinatown better than Bobby, but enough is enough, already! Even mall-workers don’t wear a badge this often!

Sad to say, DeNiro can’t open a pic nowadays. Hell, he couldn’t even open a Starbucks. His name may add that “air of prestige,” but since when are moviegoers fool enough to pay for air?

What’s worse, DeNiro’s sporting a mullet! What are you gonna do, Detective Bobby, read me my achy-breaky rights?

Naturally, Detective DeNiro is partnered with one of those tubby character actor guys whose very essence screams “I’m not gonna live to Act 2!”

Father/son issues abound in this movie. DeNiro was abandoned by his child-killing dad. In turn, he walked out on his drug-infested, good-for-nothing son. Fortunately, DeNiro is reunited with his boy after the kid is accused of murder. Why? Because capital crimes always bring a family closer together, silly. Forget NYPD Blue, this is NYPD Boo-Hoo.

City by the Sea illustrates that pervasive drug subculture where all the perps have animal world nicknames like “Snake” or “Spider.” Hey Bobby, hang up the badge and call in the Crocodile Hunter! Somebody tell the filmmakers these nicknames lost their potent aroma of youthful delinquency around the time of To Sir With Love.

What’s worse, these reptiles and insects are killing each other. Less urban jungle, more petting zoo, I say.

Boring, I tell ya! There’s a knifing or shooting every thirty minutes followed by twenty-nine minutes of talking, talking, talking – all punctuated by innumerable scenes of DeNiro pacing the boardwalk in his windbreaker with his usual hangdog gaze. Give me Monk anytime.

citybythesea_orderpizza.jpgIn one scene, DeNiro checks into a hotel where a sign offers “Free Bathing.” Free bathing?! I’d hold out for the sign reading “Defecation – Your First Movement’s On Us!”

Pity poor Frances McDormand, wasted in a role more suited to Frances McDoormat. She ain’t working for DeNiro, she’s working for dinero.

Pity poor Eliza Dushku, best known as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s a single mom jonesin’ for a fix when she should be jonesin’ for a rewrite.

Pity poor James Franco, who plays DeNiro’s junkie son. He runs away from home and shoves a pistol down the front of his pants where, I might add, it encounters no apparent obstacles. “I’m taking my genitals into custody,” noted Franco, “for disturbing my piece.”

Finally, pity the audience – those hardy few who will mistakenly believe the movie dregs of August have ended and the awards-worthy bounty of Fall has commenced. To the few, the brave, this joke’s on you.

Photos Copyright ©2002 Warner Bros.


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