2002
Rated: R for language, drug use and some violence.
Genre: Drama Thriller
Directed By: Michael Caton Jones
Running Time: 1:48
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date:
DVD Features: No Material.
CITY BY THE SEA

 

Based on the article "Mark of a Murderer" by Michael Mcalory, Lt. Vince Lemarca lives a basically quiet life in his apartment building with his girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand  Fargo, Almost Famous) until his long lost son Joey is accused of a crime. He is now on the run from the law and Vince must track him down and keep the police from killing him.
     The film actually has a heartfelt premise that people can relate to in some ways. You can feel Lemarca's desperation as he so eagerly tries to contact his son before the police put a toe tag on him. James Franco really takes the drug user role to the fullest extent managing to sport a pale tired look, and looking like he lost twenty pounds or so. I still have faith that Deniro will make a masterpiece soon, but until that time comes, he manages to save this film from becoming terrible. He's a very likable character with a shady past himself and is often very interesting and complex. Willaim Forsythe has a cool role as the vicious mullet sporting gangster "Spyder" who seeks Joey throughout the entire film. Though, he looks like he jumped out of the eighties, he's still really intimidating and imposing within the story.

For a film that's identified as a bonafide thriller, the concept and entire plot is completely downplayed and low-key. I was never sure which direction this film wanted go, but it definitely does not become a thriller, yet sedge ways into all directions of plots never sure where it's headed. The film is a story about relationships; the relationship Lemarca has with his ex-wife represents his past, the relationship with his new girlfriend represents his current life, and his son represents the past he abandoned. This could have been some amazing metaphors to mesh into the film, but it's ultimately ruined throughout the telling of the story. It's hard to feel sorry or even root for LeMarca because he's such an easy-going and calm individual, even throughout the most emotionally stressing moments that it almost looks like Deniro is bored with the material. I expected him to have, at least, emotional breakdowns throughout the movie during the intense moments, but he barely brings a tear to his face, even when his age old partner is killed. Whether or not its the character or the actor in himself, it's distracting and often annoying as the audience will sit watching, and basically ask why he's barely even reacting to the drama around him. The film has a lot of great actors in its ranks yet fails to use them to help move the story along. Frances McDormand has nothing to do in the movie and doesn't contribute to anything around her except to act as another selfish person in LeMarca's life.
     It's a shame that a woman who gave such a great performance in "Fargo" is put to waste away as a character in a film that could have basically been played by a "B" actress. James Franco who gave an award winning performance in the James Dean biography, isn't given a chance to show off his acting chops that got him his award, yet underplays his character to a staggering extent. He may look like a druggie, and might have been abandoned, but we never truly get the sense of it. Often times the writer will add some dialogue in which his character is complaining, and instead of sad, he often comes off as whiny, which I'm sure wasn't the intention. Eliza Dushku (Bring it on, Soul Survivor) who starred with Deniro in the incredible "This Boy's Life" also manages to pull in a thankless meaningless role that contributes nothing in helping the story move along, either. Instead, she stars as a poverty stricken girlfriend of Franco's character and steps into the story without true purpose. In full, the story is barely ever interesting to begin with, and becomes hard to pay attention to.
It's like I always say: just because a movie is based on a true story, it doesn't mean it's an interesting one.

This is pedestrian at best; It's a shame that the source material and filmmakers manage to waste all the talented actors in this project. I give this a fair rating because my faith in Deniro's talents hasn't diminished.