While investigating the homicide of a drug dealer, detective Vincent LaMarca (Robert de Niro), is told that the murderer may be his own son, Joey (James Franco). The media swarms to expose the story behind LaMarca's family's past; a history of familial murder that bring back untold "skeletons from the closet." After LaMarca's partner's shooting death, all signs point to LaMarca's son once again. However, now that a fellow police officer has "gone down" the police go all out in order to bring the young man to justice (dead or alive). Meanwhile, Vincent has to deal with the issue of chosing between work or family. The story revolves around the crumbling "City by the Sea," an area just outside of New York city. The dark underbelly lives of drug dealers and heroin addicts seem accurate and harshly entertaining.