Rumble Fish - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Rumble Fish Reviews

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½ February 6, 2018
A rowdy and generic extension of the "The Outsiders" fades into something deeply felt and poignant, stripping away all pretensions and simply pondering with help from its imaginative cinematography and sound design.
½ December 9, 2017
Teenaged angst and rebellion have been the theme used in some of the cinema's best dramatic works. From "Blackboard Jungle' to 'Rebel Without a Cause' the plight of older teens set adrift in a world of violence and confusion is fertile ground for tension. In 1983 director Francis Ford Coppola added to this important genre with 'Rumble Fish' an often overlooked film but one that stands the test of time. The title refers to a species of fish that is so aggressive that they will fight to the death any other fish nearby. If placed in front of a mirror they will start to tear themselves apart, a fitting metaphor for the senseless anger the teen gangs display towards each other and even themselves. The head of one such gang of punks is Rusty James (Matt Dillion), fierce, fearless and careening to doom he seems to care only about his girlfriend Patty (Diane Lane) and his older brother The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke), whom he idolizes. One faithful night Rusty James learns that a rival gang leader Biff Wilcox (Glenn Withrow) has called him out for a fight. Rusty James appears almost anxious to fight is enemy only to find out that what was to be a simple brawl turns far more severe when Biff produces a knife. As Rusty James is fighting for his life, pretty much holding his own an engine's rumble is heard, out of the dark appears The Motorcycle Boy, back from an extended trip to California. The Boy saves the day crashing his bike into Biff but not in time to prevent Rusty James from getting cut. While Rusty James and his crew want a return to the old days of more formalized gang fights The Motorcycle Boy seems to regret the path he has followed and wanted to help his younger brother to find another way. The characters drift in and out of various situations, the fight, philosophize and make out with the all too willing girls that seem to abound. All of this puts a lot of strain on Rusty James' relationship with Patty, she wants a more normal boyfriend but like many girls just can't turn away from that bad boy. Rusty James and The Boy's father (Dennis Hopper) is a broken down drunk. Rusty doesn't even bother to hide the bottle of booze from him when the father walks in on him drinking. The father just happens to live in the same little apartment with his son, all hopes of parental guidance lost a long time ago. The Boy is color blind; to him, the world is literally in black and white, there is nothing bright in his life. During his trip to California, The Boy met with their mother, now living with a movie producer, a symbol that it is possible to get out.

The world created here is populated by interesting, albeit somewhat stereotypical characters. There is Steve (Vincent Spano), the nerd that gets to hang out with Steve. He is always writing down what he experiences as if it is not real to him unless he can read it. In some respects he serves as the conscience for Rusty James, always questioning while he has to be so angry. Donna (Sofia Coppola) is Patty's Boy sister and has the required crush on Rusty James. When Rusty comes over to Patty's house one night, Donna scoots in to try to cuddle next to him. She wants what her older sister has, a dangerous boyfriend. Smokey (Nicolas Cage) is the one that comes up with the idea of breaking in to a house to have a party. He also has the plot to take Patty away from Rusty James. The reason for the disapreance of their friend is attributed to the insidious plague of drugs, seen as the bane even in this outlaw world. Cassandra (Diana Scarwid) is a junkie, pretty but a joke among her peers. Like the character by the same name in Greek mythology, she speaks of doom that no one hears. In this setting violence comes with no reason, it is just part of their existence. They take want they want sure that their lives are short anyway.

A producer today could not afford to hire this cast now. This was a training ground for some of the best actors of their generation. Matt Dillion portrays Rusty James as a tragic figure, product of his surround but with the potential to be much more. Although he has some natural talent as a leader his position is in contention due to his eagerness to fight with little provocation. Mickey Rourke as the Motorcycle Boy is almost existential in nature. He is laconic, choosing his few words carefully. Like James Dean before him, a soft spoken, philosophical and always prevails in a fight. He talks to his brother at a local pet store teaching him about the rumble fish, musing that he doesn't think they would fight if they were back in the river. Diane Lane holds her own in this testosterone heavy cast with a sensitive portrayal of Patty, the girl that just fell in love with the wrong boy. Francis Ford Coppola must have done some of his castings at a family get together. Nicolas Cage, born Nicholas Coppola is the nephew of the director. He did this film right after Fast Time at Ridgemont High and Valley Girl. This was the first opportunity Cage had to so the mastery he has with darker, moodier characters. As you watch, you can witness the origins of so many of his great performances. Then there is Coppola's daughter Sofia as Donna. While her career would be more successful as a director, she instills a light almost comic touch to this dark film. Her brother Gino also has a small role here. Others that went on to greatness found here in the embryo are Laurence Fishburne and Chris Penn.

Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most sophisticated and stylized directors on the scene today. His real talent is the ability to paint detailed pictures with every scene. His use of color, symbolism, and lighting is unparalleled in cinema. Here with Rumble Fish, he takes an artier approach; he has referred to this movie as an art house film for teens. Since it is in black and white with the sole exception of the rumble fish in the aquarium, he has to depend on lighting to set and sustain the mood. You can see how this film influenced the more recent film noir, Sin City. He plays with the use of camera angles, pressing little to see the clouds whizzing by or the smash of a boot into someone. Coppola brings Rusty James' thoughts to life as he sees Patty in various stages of undress in class or when Rusty beat in a robbery he hovers over his body, looking down at how Patty, Donna and the gang take the news of his death. He then floats back into his body to be saved once again by The Motorcycle Boy. While some scenes may appear to be from a senior in film school, this is just a great director having some fun with his art.
bullet Audio Commentary featuring Coppola
bullet New interviews with Coppola, author and co-screenwriter S. E. Hinton, and associate producer Roman Coppola
bullet New Conversation between Burum and Production Designer Dean Tavoularis
bullet Pieces from 2005 about the Filmā(TM)s Score and Production
bullet Interviews from 1983 with actors Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, and Vincent Spano and producer Doug Claybourne
bullet French television Interview from 1984 with Actor Mickey Rourke
bullet Locations: Looking for Rusty James, a 2013 Documentary by Alberto Fuguet about the impact of Rumble Fish
bullet New Piece about the Filmā(TM)s Existentialist Elements
bullet "Donā(TM)t Box Me In" Music Video
bullet Deleted scenes
bullet Trailer
bullet PLUS: An essay by critic Glenn Kenny
November 22, 2017
The motorcycle boy (Rourke) flies high above everyone in this story of a younger brother (Dillon) trying to emulate the legend of his out of time and distant brother. MCB destructive journey ends as expected, but this a snippet in time of the life a once normal(-ish) but now deadbeat family. NB: Copeland's soundtrack fits beautifully.
September 15, 2017
s 80s noir classic. dark gritty and really ahead of its time. cinematography is fantastic hdr time lapse black and white before hdr time lapse was a thing. well acted and really a film like no other. follows the tale of youth and the death of youth in a gritty industrial environment
½ June 24, 2017
A great movie about separating myth from reality. Most seem to hate it, but I love the stylization. I believe it served as a template for stylized pseudo youth noir films like Brick.
June 7, 2017
Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel about juvenile delinquency, sibling idolisation and teen angst is a little known film noir made poignant by the poetic black-and-white cinematography and sensitive performances from the very young Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke.
½ June 5, 2017
Based on a S.E. Hinton novel, this follows two rough brothers who grew up with an alcoholic father (Dennis Hopper, of course) up to the point the older one is killed by a cop who he had run-ins with several times. Ok film with a very strong cast.
½ April 9, 2017
Probably must be re-watched by all first time viewers in order to properly understand and/or appreciate this film. Definitely likeable.
July 16, 2016
Apparently Coppola had lost some focus after Apocalypse Now, for he began put philosophical gravity into wrong subjects.
½ April 22, 2016
So-so story but I guess that visual was such a thing back then.
January 1, 2016
I saw this probably 20yrs ago on VHS a small TV, so it was nice seeing it again in HD on a larger TV to really enjoy the stunning cinematography. This was the 2nd film Coppola released in 19083 based on a S.E. Hinton book, after "The Outsiders" and both starred Matt Dillon. This one also features Nic Cage, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Wait, Dennis Hopper and a great performance from a young Mickey Rourke. I quite liked this one, it was certainly elevated by the performances and cinematography, and I also really liked the score by Stewart Copeland. Worth checking out!
October 25, 2015
The characters in Rumble Fish are relics of the past, the last remaining stragglers from a period of large-scale gang violence who now sit around all day looking for any excuse to relive what they either experienced or have heard about from their older siblings. Rusty James leads this group, a young teenager hiding his own insecurities and feelings of inferiority towards his older brother behind empty bravado; this is the main idea Rumble Fish deals with, the nature of urban youth carrying out violence simply due to their proximity to each other and their relationships with previous generations. Coppola creates an industrial, expressionistic world for these characters to live in, a sweltering pressure-cooker that forces violence out of its bored inhabitants photographed in black and white and directed in a kinetic, experimental style. This provides compelling context, elevating what is essentially a standard "we've got to get out of this town" story.
August 23, 2015
Rumble Fish is shot beautifully and is cast well, but unfortunately, these isn't enough to make it entertaining. It fell pretty flat for a poor man's "Outsiders." Sometimes, when a writer hits gold, it's a fluke. It seems like that is the difference between Outsiders and Rumble Fish.
August 19, 2015
Brilliant. Just classic.
August 10, 2015
Uncomfortably pretentious.
April 26, 2015
An amazing movie that stayed true to an amazing book. Both very well written! Excellent casting choices!
½ April 11, 2015
This is a the parts are greater than the whole.......memorable in bits and parts.
April 11, 2015
An OK, but not great, Francis Ford Coppola movie.

Had the makings of a great story, but wasn't entirely coherent, or completely formed. Seemed contrived at times and basically didn't flow entirely well. Still, interesting enough.

Probably the highlight of the movie is all the appearances of current-day stars, before they were stars: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Nicolas Cage (Francis Ford Coppola's nephew), Diane Lane, Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne. Coppola's daughter Sophia gets a minor role, and there is a minor appearance by Tom Waits. Dennis Hopper is the only then-known-actor in the cast. All give good performances.
½ April 3, 2015
RUMBLE FISH is probably one of the less-seen films in Francis Ford Coppola's oeuvre, but I found it to be an eminently watchable, artsy gem that has a great sense of mood and style. The story revolves around Rusty James (Matt Dillon), a troubled teenager who finds it difficult living up to the reputation of his smarter older brother (Mickey Rourke). The main message I took from the film is that we too often look up to people for the wrong reasons, or idealize them without having a true sense of who they are. RUMBLE FISH explores youth through a dystopian lens, and Coppola conjures up dreamlike, occasionally borderline surreal, imagery to escort us through Rusty James' world. The film is in black and white, with a few instances of color for emphasis. Stylistically, this was a kind of cross between film noir, WEST SIDE STORY and a Michael Jackson video. In particular, an early fight sequence between Rusty and another character evoked the climactic fight in WEST SIDE STORY. In general, there was this balletic quality to the way the characters moved. When combined with Coppola's eloquent cinematography and an eclectic score, the effect is often hypnotic and always engrossing. That being said, the story itself meanders a bit too much and most of the performances (by young actors) were rather rough around the edges. Of course, part of that could have something to do with how the dialogue was post-synced. But still, RUMBLE FISH ranks pretty high among the most visually interesting films I've ever seen, even if the story and performances leave a bit to be desired.
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