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 it wanted go but it definitely does not become a thriller. It segues 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.
Lt. Vince Lemarca lives a basically quiet life in his apartment building with his girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand) 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. 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. 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. James Franco isn’t given a chance to show off his acting chops. In full, the story is barely ever interesting to begin with. Just because it was a true story, it doesn’t mean it’s an interesting one. “City by the Sea” is pedestrian at best; it’s a shame that the source material and filmmakers manage to waste all the talented actors in this project.