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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Based On a True Story

City by the Sea on IMDb

Plot Overview


Long Beach is portrayed as a picture postcard, a White oasis of easy living back when skirts were longer and men wore hats. Fast forward to a waste­land of drugs, crime and blacks. Junkie Joey “Nova” (James Franco) is guided by fellow user Snake (Brian Tarantina) to pusher Spyder (William Forsythe) where a drug deal goes bad and they dump the body in the river. NYC homicide detective Lt. Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) and his partner Reg Duffy (George Dzundza) are assigned the floater while supplier Spyder (William Forsythe) looks for who killed his outlet.

crucifiedThe trail leads to Long Beach where LaMarca reminisces with his partner of his early memories of the place when it was new and the people who moved there were on their “first house, first car, first wife.” Eventually they talk of its first murder, a kid­napping gone awry by LaMarca's own father who was crucified in the press and executed in Sing Sing. Trying to live down the family fault, LaMarca applied him­self to become an award-winning cop.

When the main suspect turns out to be Lt. LaMarca's neglected son Joey, he is taken off the case but keeps ties with Reg as it spirals out of control with a second murder, and life gets complicated for the absent father through his visit with his ex-wife Maggie (Patti Lupone,) new revelations to his girlfriend Michelle (Frances McDormand,) and discovery of Joey's girl­friend and baby mama Gina (Eliza Dushku.)


high ballbabyHere we witness a dynamic of generations within the schema of (Prov. 30:15-16) “The horse­leach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.” The relentless grave draws people to it through their old age when they become (“Give!”) fundamentally dependent on others. And wombs keep churning out young'uns who until they mature are also (“Give!”) dependent. The senior LaMarca may or may not have passed down the “killer gene” the newspaper rants about, but he may have the longevity of his son LaMarca who works well past retirement age (“I thought you'd be retired by now; you got the time”) and the vigor of his grand­son the high school foot­ball star. Life in prison could have meant supporting him through an extended old age, but the “baby killer” got the chair instead. Gina was given street cred for raising her son Angelo till 18 months through “work­fare, flipping hamburgers, and skimming from the till.”

“The earth that is not filled with water” is a drained world (after Noah's flood) necessary for our survival. It is intimated in the movie opening by the ocean lapping at a sandy beach, the start of arable land. An elaboration can be had from Plato's description of Atlantis before its own cataclysmic flood:

cornucopiaAlso whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth. whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit or flower, grew and thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food—we call them all by the common name pulse, and the fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of eating—all these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance. (10)

“The fire that saith not, It is enough” is human (animal) metabolism that must be perpetually fueled. In “City By the Sea” we see grandpa LaMarca feeding his son's kid some break­fast cereal & milk, the convenient diner Tropical Palace open for night owls, a restaurant where LaMarca and his girl­friend have some cheese­cake during her break, the burger joint where Gina works day shift, and an emaciated Joey from starving his sorry self. She says of Joey helping her, “He would if he could,” and as for Joey's father helping, it's a matter of he could if he would, which is the crux of this movie.

Production Values

” (2002) was directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Its screenplay was written by Ken Hixon, loosely based on various news­­paper clippings, Mike McAlary's Esquire article, and David Lonnie's book, Mark of a Murderer. It stars Robert De Niro, James Franco and Frances McDormand, supported by Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe, Patti Lupone, Anson Mount, John Doman, Brian Tarantina, Nestor Serrano and Drena De Niro, Robert De Niro's daughter. These are all good actors but not their best performances. Dushku playing the harried single mom, how­ever, was a winner in my book.

MPAA rated it R for language, drug use and some violence. The musical score was uplifting and the cinema­tog­raphy excellent. Parts of it were shot on location in Asbury Park, NJ standing in for Long Island. Runtime is 1¾ hours.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This was a rather pleasant crime drama whose message is same old, same old: don't do drugs, crime doesn't pay, cops are people too, and the poor do what they gotta do. It's worth the view but not very memorable.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Plato. Critias (360 bce). From David Edward, Atlantis Solved. © 2022 David Lady. Imprint: Frequency99, Inc. Ocals, Florida, 2022. Print.