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City by the Sea (2002)

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Vincent Lamarca, whose father was executed for a 1950s kidnapping of a child, grew up to become a police officer, only to see his own son become a murder suspect.


Mike McAlary (article) (as Michael McAlary), Ken Hixon (screenplay)
1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Vincent LaMarca
Frances McDormand ... Michelle
James Franco ... Joey
Eliza Dushku ... Gina
William Forsythe ... Spyder
Patti LuPone ... Maggie (as Patti Lupone)
Anson Mount ... Dave Simon
John Doman ... Henderson
Brian Tarantina ... Snake
Drena De Niro ... Vanessa Hansen
Michael P. Moran Michael P. Moran ... Herb
Nestor Serrano ... Rossi
Matthew Cowles ... Arnie
Linda Emond ... Margery
Cyrus Farmer ... Carl


New York City homicide detective Vincent LaMarca has forged a long and distinguished career in law enforcement, making a name for himself as a man intensely committed to his work. But on his latest case, the stakes are higher for Vincent--the suspect he's investigating is his own son. He and Joey have been painfully estranged ever since Vincent divorced his wife and left the decaying boardwalks of Long Beach, Long Island for the anonymity of Manhattan and a successful career with the NYPD. He lives his life in solitude, keeping his girlfriend at arm's length; the closest relationship he maintains is with his partner, Reg--and Vincent makes sure that stops at the precinct door. As long as Vincent lives in the protection of the present, he doesn't have to deal with the pain of his past--or his sorrow over his broken relationship with Joey. But this murder investigation is drawing Vincent home to Long Beach, the self-proclaimed City by the Sea, where the past has been waiting for him to ... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When you're searching for a killer... the last suspect you want to see is your son.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, drug use and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

6 September 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mark of a Murderer See more »

Filming Locations:

Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA See more »


Box Office


$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,935,426, 8 September 2002, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$22,433,915, 10 November 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In June 2001, Michael Caton-Jones and his assistant Mitchel Stanley were ordered to move to Los Angeles to finish the film, thus missing the 9/11 terrorist attacks that could have also hit the editing facility in Tribeca. See more »


When they find Picasso killed, they take the money out of his jacket. The cop says there is nothing larger than a 20, and there is 4,000 dollars. Yet the wad is tiny and if it were small bills, might make up three hundred bucks at the most. See more »


Michelle: He's got to choose who he wants to be.
Vincent LaMarca: Yeah, you think we got a choice? Nah, we just pretend that we got a choice.
See more »

Crazy Credits

This motion picture was not actually filmed in Long Beach, New York. See more »


Referenced in Shameless: Episode #1.1 (2004) See more »


Prelude Op. 28, No. 15
(Raindrop Prelude) (uncredited)
By Frédéric Chopin
Performed by Bryan Pezzone
See more »

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User Reviews

"City" is a gritty soul-searcher featuring a questionable hero
9 June 2003 | by SwingBattaSee all my reviews

"City By The Sea," based on a 1997 Esquire magazine article, is a gritty piece of work that doesn't aspire to be upbeat or have everything wrapped up in a neat, tidy package. The soul of this film is hidden beneath the surface of the familiar cops-and-crooks premise.

Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro) is a well-respected veteran NYPD homicide detective who is sent to investigate a murder in Long Beach – a once prosperous, and now badly dilapidated, Long Island community known as the City by the Sea. The victim is a seedy drug dealer. The official suspect is Vincent's long-lost son. This unexpected and unnerving situation swiftly brings back very unpleasant ghosts from the officer's past that he has fought to suppress for years.

Joey LaMarca (James Franco, bearing resemblance to Ben Stiller) is an emaciated drug addict living on the streets of Long Beach, in relentless pursuit of his next high. He and Vincent have been estranged for over a decade, following an ugly divorce that resulted in the detective seeking refuge miles away in the comfort of Manhattan and his police work. Faced with the task of bringing the killer to justice, the detective concurrently embarks on a mission to try and save his son. As his investigation progresses, Vincent forces himself to finally face the music about his shortcomings as a father figure and the role it has played in Joey's destructive lifestyle.

Director Michael Caton-Jones makes up for lack of suspense with sharp cinematography (a tense argument between Vincent and his ex-wife is shot with a handheld) and the crafting of a morbidly captivating world inhabited by a myriad of characters, such as Reg Duffy (George Dzundza), Vincent's closest friend on the force, plus Vincent's caring but stern girlfriend (Frances McDormand), a revenge-bent drug dealer (William Forsythe), and a struggling single mother (Eliza Dushku) whose child Joey fathered. Ken Hixon's script paints Vincent in a perplexing light: Do we share his pain resulting from his son's situation, or revile him instead for leaving Joey in the lurch years ago?

However, the gradual reparation of this distraught relationship comes at the expense of the aforementioned supporting cast, whose importance to the plot dwindles as the abrupt, hackneyed climax nears. But these flaws are forgivable due to DeNiro's performance in an emotionally hard-hitting role that, ironically, parallels Al Pacino's similar portrayal of a mentally-tortured cop facing up to the consequences of his actions in the 2002 summer hit "Insomnia." The miserable deterioration of Long Beach serves as a unique metaphor for Vincent's downward spiral, though it's much more difficult to repair a damaged psyche than the repudiated remains of a casino. 8/10

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