Robert De Niro stands as one of the most recognized actors in the world, with a filmography dotted with seemingly countless award-winning movies. From classics like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to hits like Goodfellas and The Godfather Part II, De Niro’s talent has been celebrated time and again. With that said, City by the Sea is an often-overlooked gem in his expansive body of work, and for those who have yet to discover it, the film is currently streaming on Max.
City by the Sea, streaming now on Max, is a cop drama starring Robert De Niro and James Franco.
Released in 2002, City by the Sea stands out as much more than just a typical cop drama. It’s an emotional narrative that unravels the complexities of familial ties, the weight of the past, and the pursuit of redemption. The film, which is based on a true story, draws viewers into the heart of a fractured father-son relationship and the shadows of a city’s decay.
Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) is a dedicated cop haunted by a shadowy past and the heavy weight of his father’s criminal misdeeds. Firmly resolute, he’s determined not to let the sins and misgivings of the past define his present or future.
Yet, when his estranged son Joey (James Franco) emerges as a prime suspect in a chilling murder case, the haunting specters and dark shadows of the past are mercilessly resurrected, threatening to engulf him again.
LaMarca’s journey to find and protect Joey is filled with emotional turbulence. Viewers witness the raw and painful disintegration of their relationship, punctuated by Joey’s struggles with drug addiction and criminal activities. The tension is palpable, but it’s in this conflict that the movie finds its heart.
Robert De Niro leads the cast in bringing depth to a moving script, ensuring City by the Sea remains memorable. As Vincent LaMarca, De Niro delivers a masterful portrayal of a cop burdened by family histories. His unmatched talent for expressing profound emotions subtly shines brilliantly in this role.
Despite Robert De Niro and the rest of the all-star cast, City by the Sea underperformed, earning $29 million against a budget of $40 million.
James Franco delivers a deep, masterful portrayal of Joey LaMarca, vividly capturing his emotional journey. His performance accentuates the tense relationship with his father, Vincent. Furthermore, his on-screen chemistry with Robert De Niro stands out remarkably.
Finally, Frances McDormand excels as Michelle, embodying a blend of subtlety and strength, and shares remarkable chemistry with Robert De Niro. Like James Franco, her on-screen dynamics with De Niro are captivating. Together, the cast’s prowess elevates City by the Sea to cinematic brilliance.
City by the Sea was directed by Michael Caton-Jones, the Scottish director known for several successful films. Prior to this project, he had collaborated with Robert De Niro on the 1993 film A Boy’s Life. Caton-Jones skillfully maintained a balance in City by the Sea, ensuring that its emotional depth was never eclipsed by its crime-related elements.
Ken Hixon showcased his exceptional screenwriting skills when he crafted the screenplay for City by the Sea, basing his script on an article penned by Mike McAlary. Hixon’s innate talent is evident throughout the film as he captures raw emotions and crafts authentic character interactions. The seamless transition from a mere article to a fully realized cinematic narrative is a testament to Hixon’s skill and proficiency as a screenwriter.
Despite showcasing powerful acting and moments of genuine cinematic brilliance, City by the Sea garnered mixed reviews upon its release. Critics praised the lead performances, particularly Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Vincent LaMarca and James Francho’s depiction of Joey. While most critics agreed that their on-screen chemistry added emotional depth to the narrative, some found the film’s plot predictable, feeling it didn’t entirely capitalize on its potential.
The years have been kind to City by the Sea, which is now considered one of Robert De Niro’s best performances.
Much like its critical reception, City by the Sea also encountered financial challenges. While it attracted audiences due to its leading stars, particularly Robert De Niro, the overall earnings were modest, with the movie not coming anywhere close to achieving blockbuster status. The film’s box office results were underwhelming, grossing around $29.4 million worldwide against an estimated $40 million budget.
However, in the years since its release, City by the Sea has found appreciation among cinephiles and fans of character-driven dramas. Many now view it as an underrated gem in both Robert De Niro’s and James Franco’s filmographies. The movie’s themes of redemption, family, and the inexorable pull of the past resonate deeply, making it a film worth revisiting.