Film Review – Rumble Fish (1983)

Rumble Fish

Title – Rumble Fish (1983)

Director – Francis Ford Coppola (Youth Without Youth)

Cast – Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishbourne, Chris Penn

Plot – Rusty James (Dillon) is a bad boy who wants nothing more than to fight, drink and be with his girl Patty (Lane). Rusty’s brother Motorcycle Boy (Rourke) is a hero to him and a legend in the gang world but when he returns home after months away as a changed man it throws Rusty’s world upside down.

“If you’re going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go”

Review by Eddie on 12/03/2014

Releasing after the much less artsy adaptation of S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish adaptation is prime example of where the once great director started to lose the plot and a product that shows the downfalls of trying to make a movie with the style over substance mantra.

Filmed in a stark Black and White and filled with many a dream like quality Rumble Fish’s presentation allows no connection to the story of Hinton’s book which one feels would be ripe even this day to adapt if the approach was more grounded. Coppola set out to mimic artists and expressionism in his take on the disaffected youth of the 50’s – 60’s yet forgot to engage us in the plight of the characters who led by Matt Dillon as Rusty James do fine jobs in their roles. Rumble Fish is today mainly noteworthy for these early acting pieces by the likes of both Nicolas Cage and Dianne Lane. The weakest link of the film following the direction of Coppola is strangely the supposedly enigmatic Motorcycle Boy played by then desirable icon Micky Rourke.

Rourke seems like an almost ghostly figure in the film playing Motorcycle Boy as a disinterested young man who barely seems to want to talk as witnessed in his irritating hushed tone and blank facial expressions. In a movie where the youth look up to this supposedly charming and charismatic bad boy it is a major miss-step by Rourke to play Motorcycle Boy as he does and Coppola to allow him to do so. Another flaw in the film is the seriously idiotic musical score by Police member Stewart Copeland who seemingly had taken the opportunity to experiment rather than craft an effective accompanying piece.

Rumble Fish is not all bad but it’s also a wasted opportunity to be a classic take on youth on family and the source material has a lot going for it that would work in a film format. Thanks to some novelty factors of seeing the young cast ply their early trade and an interest in what should be an affective story it remains watchable yet in the end merely showpieces as Coppola’s beginning of his ever diminishing creative genius that at one stage was nigh unbeatable.

2 foggy streets out of 5

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9 responses to “Film Review – Rumble Fish (1983)

  1. Haha, funnily enough, I am about to do a review of The Outsiders! I loved the OUtsiders book as a teen, and love the movie because of that. That then led me to Rumble Fish, which I don’t hold the same affection for, but I still think it’s pretty decent.

    • I love the Outsiders book mate what a great little tale. I agree on Rumble Fish I didn’t love the book and the movie was weak for material that is pretty ripe to expand on in a film.
      Eddie

  2. Yep. “The Outsiders” is a classic that happens to have a fat, crooked-toothed Tom Cruise who is outshown in the eye candy department by Matt Dillon, Tommy Howells, and others. Rumble Fish is a mess, an interesting mess, but a mess.

  3. Great review, Eddie.

    I loved The Outsiders book and movie. One of my favorite novels growing up. I’m pretty sure I read Rumble Fish around that same time but it didn’t stick with me the way that The Outsiders did. And I never saw the movie. Even though it sounds like it really wasn’t too great I think I will still want to give it a go sometime.

    There was another book/movie in the expanded Outsiders universe called Tex, I believe. I actually think I have the DVD somewhere. Have you ever seen that?

  4. I think out of the 5 S.E. Hinton books written in the loose series, they adapted 4. Matt Dillon was in 3 of them (Emilio Estevez was in 3 as well, but not this one), this is my favorite performance. I agree that casting a cardboard cutout of James Dean would have been more effective than Mickey Rourke. Also, bonus points for a young Laurence (when he was still Larry) Fishburne.

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