City by the Sea
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
Michael Caton-Jones directs Robert DeNiro as—Is this a first?—a cop! In
Director Michael Caton-Jones (
Unfortunately, the film stumbles in the final frantic moments. When father and son finally reach their crucial confrontation, the screenwriter loses faith in the actions of the characters and gives Vincent a long flurry of sentimental words that even the great Robert De Niro cannot convincingly pull off. An otherwise compelling human drama falls apart. (My full review is at Looking Closer.)
Other religious media critics were perplexed by the film, troubled at its dark visions of the wages of sin, yet impressed by its emphasis on family bonds. Most give the film good marks for its strong themes.
Loren Eaton (Focus on the Family) writes, "Like an unscrupulous and half-trained surgeon,
Eric Rice (
But Anne Navarro (Catholic News) disagrees, saying that the film "clumsily conveys that each individual, no matter what his past may be riddled with, ultimately must take responsibility for his own actions and forge a better life. Respectable performances rise above the clichéd script, but the movie's sluggish pace and the predictable plotting diminish what could have been a more dramatic and compelling film."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) was impressed with the legendary lead: "Robert De Niro takes a low-key, naturalistic approach to his role of Vincent. Except for an emotionally overblown climax which doesn't quite ring true, he gives a balanced introspective performance."
Mainstream critics hailed McDormand and Franco, but had differing opinions on how this De Niro performance compares to his past work. Andrew Sarris (New York Observer) says, "It's worth seeing … for the varied subtleties of De Niro's acting." Robert Koehler (Variety) says, "De Niro infuses his familiar NYC cop identity with a feeling of near-exhaustion and emotional fatigue, the outward face of a man who has been privately suffering for years."
But Brian Miller (Seattle Weekly) was too distracted by De Niro's current physique to have much to say about his performance: "Will daddy bring his neglected boy to justice? Can he protect his kid from trigger-happy cops? A better question is, will the corpulent De Niro suffer a stroke on-screen?" But he praises McDormand: "Her usual intelligence outshines everyone else on-screen; she's like some alien visitor from a much, much better movie."
David Denby (New Yorker) praises the performance: "[De Niro's] underplaying shows the kind of balance and lightness gained from long experience with 'dark' material." That, he argues, is still not enough. "After the complex buildup of tensions, the last ten minutes of the movie are a comic-pathetic letdown. Even De Niro's discipline and skill can't save lines that should never have been spoken in the first place."
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) turned in a review of