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City by the Sea

Starring Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco
Screenplay by Ken Hixon
Based on an Esquire Magazine article by Michael McAlary
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

IN SHORT: De Niro cries. You'll cry for your money back. [Rated R for Language, Drug Use and Some Violence. 104 minutes]

Once upon a time there was a young boy whose father went to the electric chair for the kidnapping and murder of a baby. The boy grew into a fine man, a first rate New York City Police detective who, in turn, abandoned his own son. That son became a junkie cop killer who is still resentful that his dad never showed up for his star turn as quarterback of Long Beach High's football victory over Cedarhurst.

The murder back in Generation One was an accident, but that's beside the point. Ditto for Long Beach's defeat of Cedarhurst -- the school is called Lawrence (we went there) -- which is a detail so trivial that, if City by the Sea weren't being sold as based on a true story, we would ignore it. But it is so we won't. More to the point, by the time that detail came winging our way, our audience was already laughing out loud at this laughably bad script. Our gut feeling is that, if this stinker had been cast with anyone other than A-list actors, the audience would have been throwing things at the screen instead.

What we endured was a bad television soap opera, starring tightly wound Detective Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) who walked out on his wife Maggie (Patti Lupone) and son Joey (James Franco) fourteen years ago -- Joey loves his car so much he took its last name, Nova. Vincent's downstairs neighbor, actress girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand) keeps him warm at night, even though he keeps her in the dark about everything in his personal life.

All that goes to hell when the body of a heavily tattooed Long Beach drug dealer nicknamed "Picasso" (Jay Boryea) washes up in Brooklyn. Conveniently, another lowlife scum named "Snake" (Brian Tarantina) pops up to pin the deed on Joey Nova. Also conveniently, we did say these things hit like a soap opera didn't we?, Joey's ex-junkie girlfriend Gina (Eliza Dushku) magically appears with a box of personal items that let Vince connect with the son he now has to save from vengeful uber-drug dealer Spyder (William Mount).

And, of course, Vince has to save the day pretty much without benefit of partner Reggie (George Dzunda) and rookie detective Dave Simon (Anson Mount) as he's been pulled off the case because of late breaking news about who his father was.

And, as it turns out after careful perusal of the press notes, about the only "true story" is that there was a cop whose junkie son was accused of killing another cop. Just about everything else is fabricated and fabricated badly.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to City by the Sea, he would have paid . . .


Rent. Laughter is good for some things . . .

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