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City By The Sea /

Rated: R
Starring: Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Produced by: Andrew Stevens, Brad Grey, Elie Samaha, Michael Caton-Jones, Matthew Baer
Written by: Ken Hixon

Distributor: Warner Brothers


Movie Image
Movie Image
Movie Image

      City by the Sea is comforting because of its superiority over the dull releases over the past few weeks. Despite and few errors in the plot and some unrealistic features, I’ll gladly take it any day. On the other hand, if you don’t walk in with an open-mind, you will most likely dislike it for its simplicity; though I thought that the uncomplicated story worked to its advantage in the scenes full of dialogue because it allowed them to be more easily crafted; by the actors.

    One of the best things about the film is its great performances. In recent days Robert DeNiro has been too constrained in his roles, but this one allowed him to show what a wonderful actor that he really is. With the absence of The Score, all of his movies lately have been comedies, which he is good in, but is unable to have the edge that he brings to the table in the drama genre, though this fit him well and he was able to excellently mold the character he plays (Detective Vincent LaMarka) to fit his own personality. James Franco was also very good. I have never seen anyone play a druggie so well! His character, could’ve been done in many ways, unlike DeNiro’s, but the out-there type style that he chose worked just as good as any other I could think of! The supporting characters played by Francis McDormand, George Dzundza, and Patty LuPone were also tremendous, though no one could out shine DeNiro and Franco’s infallible chemistry. 

      Though DeNiro was great in performing, his character was not. There was one error in the screenplay that involved Detective LaMarka that annoyed me tremendously. In the last minutes of the movie, he is shot (this isn’t spoiling anything, don’t worry); but doesn’t react. No twitch, no fall, he doesn’t even say “Ouch”; instead he replies by saying “I’ll be O.K.”. Some might view that this as the beauty of filmmaking, the way a story can be stretched, I know I have in other incidences; but I this huge element of irony so desperately thrown at the audience at such an emotionally stirring moment and terribly out of place. This is one of the few times that there is an error in the otherwise impenetrable screenplay is too noticeable to not talk about.

     The score used in the film entitled “City by the Sea”, which most likely inspired the title of the entire flick worked great because it has a light sound, but has a tremendous impact on viewers. It lets the acting stand out, and at the same time goes with it beautifully. This is an area where some films in recent days have gone flat. The director, producer, and studio have gone with out of place music for money and sponsorship reasons, that doesn’t go well with the motion picture at all; but in this the soundtrack was original and individual, I wouldn’t have changed a thing if I could’ve.

     I have a piece of advice for the many people who see this movie over the years, and that is to disregard the beginning of it and to pay close attention to the ending. I say this because the film starts shaky, and takes a while to warm up to at first, but after the end, every minute of it is worth your money. For the first thirty minutes I was prepared to give it a two bucket rating, but a series of intelligent events led me to strongly recommend it. Though at times very outlandish and improbable, City by the Sea really leads you to believe that the events shown could really happen, as they did, and the film was able to combine reality and the unbelievable quite well, the movie remained a movie but maintained a realistic feeling.

     Clint Eastwood’s new movie, that was released just a month ago, entitled Blood Work and this film’s stories were supposed to be from the same general area; though this movie looked a lot more like the real Long Beach. In Blood Work there is little graffiti, few old buildings, and everything looks well kept, just like a movie set. The scenes intended to be in L.B. in City by the Sea are gruesome, rusted, old, and dirty; this gives off a low-beat feel, but captures the real effect of the city. This aspect may have saved it from getting panned by me, because if the scenry wasn’t done so realistically; the movie would’ve just been too outlandish to buy into. Like the screenplay, the sets were simplistic, but they worked, and that’s what I admired them for.

     Director Michael Caton-Jones and cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub did an exquisite job in making this one, their inspirational choice of shots and camera-work to  use made the movie work in more ways than not. The specific style they crafted in carrying out things, and panning in to make the important dialogue stand out was crucial to the pictures well being. The acting was good, though if the work that they performed off-screen hadn’t been there, the suffering areas would’ve gone even more flat; killing the entire feature. This is one of the ways that Eastwood’s work failed on Blood Work, and I’m glad that this team was able to avoid it.

     All in all, City by the Sea is an excellent way to spend one hour and forty eight minutes. It contains wonderful acting, direction, shooting locations, sets, direction, cinematography, and score; though it plummets when improbable. It is nice to see something good come out of a major studio after the end-of-summer tragedies Fear dot com, Simone, and xXx (Triple X). This type of material is a refreshing and unique post-season treasure.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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