ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  michael canton-jones

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  108 minutes

RELEASED  -  6 september 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  city by the sea

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $60,000,000
city by the sea - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from city by the sea at

buy the dvd from city by the sea at

a police officer has to deal with his son becoming a murderer.

released a year after it was originally to have been released.


picture from city by the sea

picture from city by the sea

picture from city by the sea


one out of four possible stars

Violent, depressing, and dirty, City By the Sea can easily fool one into believing that life in New York City really is that bad. The characters in this film are the most hopeless sorts of human beings ever assembled for one film. It is hard to see why many of the characters have the will to get up and breathe each day. Every facet of their lives is doused in grime, filth, and disease. It's as if the cinematographer went out of his way to paint New York City and Long Beach, New York as the least desirable places on the planet.

The look of the film has a sort of post-apocalyptic slant that makes it easy to believe the characters in this film have been put into a sort of world where no one cares about anybody else. The location used by the cinematographer really elicits a lonely atmosphere that in and of itself is quite unique. The deserted and graffiti ridden walls of the decrepit boardwalks of Long Beach really lend themselves to becoming a character in the film and the town itself easily becomes a menacing presence.

But the visual intensity of the film is sometimes hampered by a soundtrack that sounds like it was written for a different movie. The score is melodramatically emotional and undercuts some of the drama that is created by its actors. The old adage "less is more" seems to never have occurred to the filmmakers here, because whenever Robert De Niro has to say some tortured dialogue, the symphony starts cranking out really loud, full music and it nearly takes precedence over whatever's actually happening in the screen.

If the filmmakers, and more particularly, the composer, had acted with a decent amount of brevity, the fine performances in the film might have been more noticeable. But though the soundtrack seemed to intrude in some scenes, the actors in this film did give better than average performances. And Robert De Niro, as a life-long police officer who finds that the prime suspect on his case is his own son, certainly shows enough of his emotions in this film. Over the last decade or so, his face has started to literally pucker up all the time, as if he sucks on lemons for fun.

Though the strength of his performance cannot be denied, De Niro needs to leg go of the muscles in this face before he sucks his eyeballs through the back of his head. The other actors in the film make an impression as well, with James Franco looking quite the part. One hopes that he did not prepare for his part as a method actor would be actually becoming a needle junkie. Though it is certain that both Franco and De Niro play their parts excellently and are joined by a very capable cast. Frances McDormand, always a stunning presence on screen, gives the film its two lonely humorous parts and is a very steady actor as well. She plays De Niro's girlfriend, Michelle.

In a world full of depressing situations and lives, McDormand has what could be considered the most normal existence of the bunch. Eliza Dushku, who plays Franco's girlfriend, has a much less enviable situation in life, but she is a strong presence as well. Her past film roles have really run the gamut from depressing to humorous, but she proves in this film that she can hold her own against the awesome presence that is Robert De Niro. And William Forsythe plays the resident evil guy very well, complete with unwashed, greasy hair and the ability to ride a motorcycle.

But for all its talent on screen, this film has far too much depression and not nearly enough humor in it to lift the weight that settles so easily on the shoulders of the viewer. It is heavy material that needs some comedy in it, if only to make the situation bearable. The two instances of comedy in the film (There are only two places, very easy to count) were welcome and the filmmakers should not have taken themselves so seriously. In taking in the strange soundtrack, the depressing story, and the good performances, entire film as a whole, taken from a very intriguing true story, has been turned into just another cop movie.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs warner bros. 2002
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