Rakesh's movie talk
City By The Sea (2002)

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Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Written by Ken Hixon (Based on article written by Mike McAlary)
Starring Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, George Dzundza and William Forsythe


I went to the theatre for The Two Towers and noticed that most of the crowds were there for it too. I don't mind watching good movies with a crowd, but not with the audiences that laugh at fart jokes and eat popcorn loud enough to make me think that we are under terrorist attack. No thank you, ma'am. I settled instead for this quite little movie. There were only four audiences in the theatre, and I had a fabulous quiet time.

Now, how long has it been since we saw Robert De Niro delivering the kind of performance that is expected from him? Pretty long. He has been either appearing as cameo or doing comedy routines for so long that I think the last time he did a serious role was in Ronin. Even that was an action movie. But this one, it brings back the good ol' days of restrained performances a la The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver and in some aspect, Heat. De Niro is brilliant, and I am glad that I'm still his fan despite duds like Rocky and Bullwinkle or Meet The Parents, where I felt he was just sleepwalking through his roles. Here, De Niro rules!

Here's the story: De Niro plays New York City homicide detective Vincent LaMarca, who enjoyed a good respected career as a cop, though back when he was a kid, his father was executed for murder. On the personal side, his life sucks. He is separated from his wife, and is an automatic failure as a father. Not so long afterwards, his drug-addict son becomes a suspect in a murder case.

In the film, we are presented with a genuinely disturbing conflict. Based on a real incident, the movie explores father and son relationship, just like it did in Road to Perdition. While the latter has elements of fantasy in it, City by The Sea takes the audience into the dark and murky world crime, located in the Long Beach in Long Island. With the crime of his father on one shoulder, La Marca now has to carry the burden of the sins he committed to his son - merely by walking away from the latter's life when he was young. La Marca is later presented with his grandson, a 18-month-old, now abandoned by the little one's parent.

Young actor James Franco is pretty terrific as La Marca's son Joey. Though some may argue that it is an actor-proof role, being a drug addict, abandoned son and all, Franco does give additional life to this character. You will both hate him for what he is doing to his dad or sympathise with him for what his dad has done, or never did for him. When La Marca suddenly comes in to protect him, you can understand Joey's anger. Credit should go to both the actor and the scriptwriter.

But there is something in De Niro's character that I can completely relate to. One is of course the failure as husband and a father (no, I haven't come to that part in my life yet, but that's how I see myself if I were to stay the way I am), but there is also the way he completely shuts himself from people around him (something I am avoiding nowadays). It is late in his life, and suddenly all the new happenings to him and his son make him believe in second chance. The final speech he gives to his son about this very chance tugged my heart. Couple that with De Niro's performance...man I had a lump in my throat. It is not stylish to be a loner. It works in some great action movies, but in real life, you need people man. You have to open up to your close ones. Ah, I guess the movie struck a cord with me. I will treasure this movie.

Everything is okay in this movie except for William Forsyth who seemed to have dropped from a rejected Steven Seagal film. I wonder if his character existed in the real life affair. Or did the studio pressure for his presence to have some gunfire? Well, he never really interrupts the narration, which, I may have to warn some of you, can be really dragging, pace-wise. So, don't watch this movie after work or very late in the night. Do some soul searching of your own. I did with this movie, and I am still thinking...