Rumble Fish (1983)

“He looks really old — like, 25 or something.”

Synopsis:
A teenage punk (Matt Dillon) living with his alcoholic father (Dennis Hopper) and hanging out with his childhood friend (Vincent Spano) romances his Catholic-school girlfriend (Diane Lane) while preparing to engage in a “rumble” with a rival from another gang (Glenn Withrow) — but when his idolized older brother (Mickey Rourke) suddenly appears back in town, Dillon is forced to confront the truth of his veneration for the mysterious “Motorcycle Boy” (Rourke).

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Review:
Frances Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel is a visually poetic, directorially innovative look at a teenage hoodlum navigating life on the streets while dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics and romantic entanglements. Unfortunately, while we get a strong sense of the milieu Rusty James (Dillon) lives in, he isn’t a particularly appealing or charismatic protagonist; he may be quick on the rumble but isn’t smart enough to (for instance) foresee a rivalrous take-down by his gang-mate (Nicolas Cage), and it’s hard to feel much pity in general for him. Hopper is well-cast (if type-cast) as Dillon’s dad; Lane is appropriately sexy as Dillon’s love-interest; and Rourke projects a convincing aura of paranoid world-weariness. Ultimately, however, the visuals nearly overtake the storyline in Rumble Fish, and are the primary reason for viewing it at least once; see stills below for a sense of what’s in store.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Innovative direction



  • Excellent use of local (Tulsa, Oklahoma — though left unnamed) sets

  • Stephen H. Burum’s cinematography (be sure to watch the Blu-Ray DVD)



Must See?
Yes, as a visually stunning cult favorite.

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