Neil Young’s Film Lounge – City By The Sea

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

CITY BY THE SEA

3/10

USA 2002 : Michael Caton-Jones : 108 mins

Another year, another De Niro NYC cop-flick. And while City by the Sea never quite plumbs the depths of last years offensive 15 Minutes its further sad evidence of a once-great actors lazy decline into disappointingly humdrum material. His last outstanding performance was Jackie Brown: 5 long years and eleven uneven movies ago. This time he’s Vincent LaMarca, a veteran NYPD detective on a homicide case that leads him back to his home town of Long Beach, a run-down former resort on the Long Island coast. When his own estranged junkie son Joey (Spider-Mans James Franco) emerges as chief suspect, Vincent must address his dark family history: decades earlier, his own father was executed for murder. This comes as shocking news to his on-off girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand, wasted), and adds a tragic dimension to Vincents pursuit of his wayward offspring.

Though based on a true story, City by the Sea takes some drastic liberties with the facts – the details of Joeys crime have been radically softened, while the real Vincent Lamarca was retired from the force and played little part in the manhunt. This air of phoniness permeates all aspects of the production: De Niro turns 60 next year, but were told Vincent was born in 1951. And the film wasn’t even shot in Long Beach but in distant Asbury Park, New Jersey – Brit director Caton-Jones was clearly looking for a particular brand of ironic urban blight (a scuzzy diner is named Tropical Paradise) as a backdrop for Joeys descent. But with pretty-boy Franco desperately flashing his painfully gaunt cheekbones, the film veers much closer to heroin-chic than to the genuinely harrowing territory of, say, Darren Aronofskys similarly NYC-bleak Requiem for a Dream. Alongside that journey to hell, Caton-Jones picture is just a rainy day-out at the seaside.

15th October, 2002
(seen 3rd October, Odeon Mansfield)

by Neil Young