City by the Sea

Metascore
50

Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 34
  2. Negative: 3 out of 34

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Critic Reviews

  1. The cast and the direction are too good, in the end, for the rather desultory place the movie ends up.
  2. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Collin Levey
    60
    Notwithstanding a thin script and a color-by-numbers ending, the movie is redeemed by its solid performances.
  3. Frances McDormand and Patti LuPone are solid as his girlfriend and ex-wife, respectively, and James Franco is just right as his wayward son. They're a talented team. Too bad the movie doesn't live up to their abilities.
  4. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    50
    That City by the Sea isn't laughed off the screen is testament to Caton-Jones' attention to actors and to some tightly written scenes.
  5. Stumbles from restrained, fine-edged realism into blunt and muddy melodrama.
  6. Has trouble seeming real. Its back story, involving the sins of Detective LaMarca's own father, feels contrived and the eventual resolution is simultaneously shaky and too pat.
  7. 50
    The saccharine conclusion would be problematic in any film, but given how much talent is involved, it's especially disappointing here.
  8. Shot in gloomy shades of gray, this earnest but banal story about the legacy of bad parenting strands fine actors in a contrived situation and lets them squirm.
  9. 50
    A murky, vaguely fact-based melodrama that quickly sinks into the same swamp as such recent De Niro mistakes as "15 Minutes" and "Showtime."
  10. The changes are meant to make it easier for audiences to accept Vincent's loyalty to Angelo and Joey, but they blunt the genetic mystery that made McAlary's story so compelling in the first place.
  11. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: David Denby
    40
    After the complex buildup of tensions, the last ten minutes of the movie are a comic-pathetic letdown: the subdued acting and the trash-strewn street scenes lead to nothing more striking than the kind of overexplicit clichés heard in mediocre TV dramas. Even De Niro's discipline and skill can't save lines that should never have been spoken in the first place. [9 September 2002, p.162]
  12. 40
    The biggest shame in this movie is how it wastes Frances McDormand.
  13. 40
    There's nothing wrong with a little creative license, but the abundance of self-serving fabrication in City by the Sea not only diminishes LaMarca's experience and cheapens McAlary's work, it all but desecrates the memory of the real murder victim.
  14. 40
    Robert De Niro and Frances McDormand almost rescue this lifeless, clichéd cop drama! Close isn't good enough!
  15. 40
    De Niro sinks this crime drama with his vacant, inattentive performance as an affectionally challenged homicide detective.
User Score
8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 59 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 15
  2. Negative: 2 out of 15
  1. Feb 2, 2013
    4
    Imagine eating five or six pieces of toast as a meal, wouldn't you be left feeling like, "Is this it?!?" It isn't that there is anything wrongImagine eating five or six pieces of toast as a meal, wouldn't you be left feeling like, "Is this it?!?" It isn't that there is anything wrong with toast, but piece after piece it wouldn't make for much of a meal in it of itself. In the same way, City by the Sea just didn't leave me satisfied. It wasn't that there was anything blaringly wrong with it, but it never presented any interesting flavors to savor; it just bored me. Things picked up later in the movie, and I did like the poignancy of the ending, but I just didn't think it was worth the wait to get there. The trailer makes it look like an edge of your seat thriller it is not. Full Review »
  2. JohnN.
    Mar 1, 2006
    9
    I thought this was a beautifully constructed movie; a gripping story, great casting and understandably strong performances. Notably, I I thought this was a beautifully constructed movie; a gripping story, great casting and understandably strong performances. Notably, I welcomed the minimal use of music to tell me how I should feel; the script and performances were largely left to stand on their strengths. It's a mystery to me that this movie had such poor reviews, although perhaps it suited the DVD medium on which we viewed it. Highly recommended. Full Review »