City By The Sea
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Vincent LaMarca (De Niro) is an NYC cop who gets assigned to a case consisting of the murder of a bloated drug dealer found floating in the river. Things get a tad more complicated though when the prime suspect in the case turns out to be his own junkie son...who'll win out? The policeman or the father?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Despite a bit of a slow start, this flick really kicked into gear at about the 20-minute mark, when De Niro started strutting his stuff and showing us (again) why he's pretty much at the top of the pantheon when it comes to his profession. His disturbed portrayal of a cop with a bleak family tree that's not getting any better is simply a delight to watch. Think about it: the guy's father was executed for killing a little kid, his ex-wife, whom he once beat the snot out of, is making his life a living Hell, the kid he walked out on may have dunked a drug-dealer in the drink and despite all of that, I was still rooting for the guy. That's always been one of the marks of a great actor to me. He makes you care about his character and no one does it like Robert De Niro.
The world around him is just as interesting to watch though, with a special mention going out to James Franco as Joey, Vincent's son. It's a dark and grim film in which you won't see too many smiling faces and in which you don't often see the sun. Director Caton-Jones made out great in setting a decent pace, especially since the film plays like a straight drama without any confusing plot twists or surprises, just a good story that's well developed. The only negative was an unnecessary romance between Vincent and Frances McDormand's character which did add a bit of depth to De Niro's part, but cut into the rhythm once too often. Other than that, CITY BY THE SEA is a rare drama that doesn't resort to gimmicks and quick scares but rather relies on an emotional story and great acting.
The first case you get to tackle is a full length audio commentary featuring writer Ken Hixon and producer Matthew Baer. Some anecdotes about the film shoot are discussed, as are some points of the story. This is a very average commentary track as far as writers and producers go and the tone is a bit monotonous. Nothing really horrible or boring but this sure as hell won't make or break the DVD.
Next, you get to hear six words about filmmaking with director Michael Caton-Jones who sounds eerily like Sean Connery and is a pretty interesting fellow. He takes ten minutes to discuss filmmaking, relates it to this film, but the lessons put forth could easily apply to any other movie as well. He's lively and fun to listen to and his approach to filmmaking seems to make a lot of sense. Other finds include the film's theatrical trailer and brief cast & crew bios.
A slow start didn't prevent this from being a great movie nor did it prevent me from sticking around to see De Niro doing what he does best. There's not much to write home about in terms of DVD bonus material so if that's what makes your clock tick, it may limit it to a rental, but if you're into solid acting and solid movies, I suggest you pick this one up for good. It'll be as good a few months from now as it was the first time.