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CITY BY THE SEA

Is criminal behavior genetically determined or a matter of free will? What happens when duty to society conflicts with family loyalty? Good questions, but here theyíre so upstaged by hammy acting and soap-opera clichés that itís hard to believe this dreary, overwrought trifle from Michael Caton-Jones is based on a true story.

New York police detective Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) is the son of an executed murderer, and his own son Joey (James Franco) looks to be going down the same path. A desperate junkie prowling the abandoned boardwalks of the dying Long Island title town (itís actually shot in Asbury Park, not Long Beach), Joey gets involved in the standard drug deal gone bad and has to hide from the law and a bloodsucking dealer played by perennial slimeball William Forsythe. Much soiled family laundry gets exposed as LaMarca proves far from a perfect family man ó or cop ó and De Niro not only looks like Danny Aiello but begins to act like him. Franco, for his part, seems hung up on the James Dean TV portrayal for which he won a Golden Globe, and Frances McDormand as Vincentís upstairs neighbor/girlfriend/narrative device looks as if she were waiting for husband Joel Coen to cast her in another decent movie. Caton-Jones, meanwhile, loses all interest in the above and focuses instead on the Baroque, tacky architecture of a city gone to seed. (108 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: September 5 - 12, 2002
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