The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features

City by the Sea

At last, the kinder, gentler Robert DeNiro. Oh sure, he'll still whack you three ways to Sunday if you so much as blink wrong, but this time around he's a good guy, trying to do the right thing and make the world a better, happier, perkier place to live.

OK, maybe not, but he is a good guy.

City by the Sea tells the emotional tale of one family's attempt to fight genetics. Specifically, if there is one bad seed in the family already, does that doom future generations to be bad seeds? Is there such a thing as a Murder Gene?

DeNiro's son is a drug addict. Very early on, while higher than the Texas Ranger's ERA, he is involved in an altercation which leaves a man dead.

That much you probably thought you knew from the trailer. But you're wrong. You don't know half of what you think you knew. See, the trailer is all about "Your Son shot a cop." "No way, my son didn't shoot that cop." "Yes he did." "No he didn't." "Liar, liar pants on fire." "You talkin' to me?"

Thing is, that cop-killer thing happens about two thirds of the way through the movie.

The first guy who dies isn't a cop. He's a drug dealer. And no one gives a second-hand crap about a drug dealer, right? Heck, Frank Drebin killed hundreds in the "Naked Gun" movies and nobody batted an eye. So Druggie Son killed a drug dealer. Whoop-dee-doo. However, as DeNiro begins to investigate drug dealer's death, a cop is killed. Now everyone thinks Druggie Son shot a cop. But we're well into the movie by now, we've kind got a good idea about what's going on, and we wish all the nonsense from the trailer wasn't stuck in our heads, altering our perceptions of what otherwise is a darned good movie.


It is a darned good movie. And what makes it really, really good, surprise surprise, is Robert DeNiro.

The guy could order toast and command the attention of everyone in the room.

"Wheat. Buttered. Now!"

DeNiro being good is nothing new. He's good even when the film itself stinks worse than a snakefruit slathered in a helping of fecal matter, and he's just calling in his performance. Showtime comes to mind. But in City by the Sea, he's really, really,. good. Like above and beyond his usual level of good. To the point where two fine actors, Frances McDormand- who plays his girlfriend, and James Franco- who plays Druggie Son, are almost afterthoughts when compared to the almighty DeNiro, and they're damn good in this movie. But when DeNiro delivers his gut wrenching speech at the end, you'll cry like a baby.

And I'm not just saying that because he could kick my ass without breaking a sweat.

To be fair, Frances McDormand's great moment, when she suddenly learns that, more or less, Robert DeNiro's character has been keeping all of this intense stuff from her, is priceless. She kinda reacts like we all did when we first caught the ending of The Sixth Sense- jaw dropping to the floor, eyes wide in amazement, nothing to be said but "I've got to leave now." She's so cool.

James Franco, meanwhile, dips his feet into the meaty part of the Druggie Son. He does a really good job, but then, just about any similarly-aged actor worth his salt would have done a fine job playing a druggie. The guy's a heroin addict! That's like acting heaven! If they announced a film starring nothing but heroin addicts, every Jake Gyllenhaal look-alike in Hollywood would scramble for a part.

City by the Sea takes you by the throat, leads you around the emotional world of murder, paranoia, pain, misery and other good stuff like that. Good guys win, bad guys lose, people are saved, nobody kills a dog. In all, everything you could want in a film.

With the exception of nudity, of course, but personally, I'm pretty glad they didn't shove a naked DeNiro in our face. Now that would have proven the existence of evil in the world once and for all.

City by the Sea gets 3 2/3 Babylons. Worship at the altar of DeNiro.

Editor's Note:

Most of the boardwalk scenes were filmed in Asbury Park, NJ, the boss's hometown. Springsteen fans alone could make this movie a hit.

City by the Sea
Rated: R
Directed By: Michael Caton-Jones
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe, George Dzunda, Patti LuPone and the overwhelming arc of pure evil, staring us in the face.

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