City By The Sea

A sharp story loses its edge, even with Robert De Niro playing Vincent LaMarca, a cop with a tragic history — his father was executed for murder — that just gets worse. Vincent's junkie son, Joey (James Franco), is wanted for murder. Will dad arrest the son he left when he split on Joey's mom (Patti Lupone) fourteen years ago, leaving Joey to rot with the boardwalk of New York's Long Beach?

The true story of the LaMarcas, well told by the late Mike McAlary in Esquire, has been pounded into TV-crime mush by screenwriter Ken Hixon and director Michael Caton-Jones. Shockingly, the acting doesn't help. Franco, who played James Dean on TV, pulls out the same mannerisms. Frances McDormand is wasted as Vincent's lady love. And De Niro sleepwalks through his role until an embarrassing burst of overacting at the climax. De Niro may enjoy the same free ride from critics afforded to Clint Eastwood in the lazy Bloodwork. But like Bruce Springsteen's gone-to-pot Asbury Park, New Jersey (which stands in for Long Beach), this sad-sack waste of a movie is a City of ruins.

From The Archives Issue 906: October 3, 2002