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Rumble Fish (1983)

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Rusty James, an absent-minded street thug struggles to live up to his legendary older brother's reputation, and longs for the days when gang warfare was going on.

Writers:

S.E. Hinton (novel), S.E. Hinton (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
4,625 ( 442)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Dillon ... Rusty James
Mickey Rourke ... The Motorcycle Boy
Diane Lane ... Patty
Dennis Hopper ... Father
Diana Scarwid ... Cassandra
Vincent Spano ... Steve
Nicolas Cage ... Smokey
Chris Penn ... B.J. Jackson (as Christopher Penn)
Laurence Fishburne ... Midget (as Larry Fishburne)
William Smith ... Patterson the Cop
Michael Higgins ... Mr. Harrigan
Glenn Withrow ... Biff Wilcox
Tom Waits ... Benny
Herb Rice ... Black Pool Player
Maybelle Wallace Maybelle Wallace ... Late Pass Clerk
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Storyline

Rusty James is the leader of a small, dying gang in an industrial town. He lives in the shadow of the memory of his absent, older brother -- The Motorcycle Boy. His mother has left, his father drinks, school has no meaning for him and his relationships are shallow. He is drawn into one more gang fight and the events that follow begin to change his life. Written by Bruce Janson <bruce@cs.su.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Motorcycle Boy's Never Coming Back See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 October 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La ley de la calle See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$18,985, 10 October 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,494,480
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Black and White | Color (some shots)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

While directing One from the Heart (1981), Francis Ford Coppola received a letter from a class of schoolchildren in the American Midwest. The children said, since he was such a good director, they had all enjoyed Apocalypse Now (1979), would he please consider tackling their favorite literary work, a book called The Outsiders, by the children's author S.E. Hinton. Coppola agreed. While shooting The Outsiders (1983), Coppola decided to make a second film back-to-back with it - a smaller, more personal work. The result was Rumble Fish (1983), and it, too, is based on a book by S. E. Hinton. See more »

Goofs

Camera shadow visible on Rusty-James' torso after The Motorcycle Boy has shown him the photograph of himself in the magazine. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Midget: Biff Wilcox is looking for you, Rusty James. He's gonna kill you, Rusty James.
See more »

Alternate Versions

There is rumoured to be an eight hour bootleg cut of the film. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Box Me In
Written by Stewart Copeland and Stan Ridgway
Performed by Stewart Copeland and Stan Ridgway
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
one of Coppola's very best; delivers a plethora of sharp visuals and terrific cinematography/performances
28 January 2004 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

I saw Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish in a film class, and it was interesting to see how certain scenes were made (seeing transitions and shots in slow motion, stopping to point out things), among the plot. From S.E. Hinton's novel, he assembles a breakthrough cast (a lot of teens) who show they can get into the characters quite effectively. And for those who love the technical side of a film- how it was made and what went into the shots and the meanings of shots- will have a feast that will turn them off or have them asking for more (or the rumored 8-hour cut, perhaps).

The story deals with characters who are struggling through life, stuck in a town where the environment seems nostalgically black and white, and only glimpses of color arise. We are given the story of two brothers- the one who takes a chunk of the story is Rusty James (an excellent, young Matt Dillon), a tough, sometimes ignorant teen who has all the strengths and weaknesses of the high-school 'rebel', taking after his AWOL older brother. The other is Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke, perfect in his quiet and touching presence), who left his town and his reputation behind to go to California. He returns to find Rusty James getting in over his head, and all his best efforts to keep him cool are mired by old wounds (some wounds involving their parents, others by the effect the atmosphere left on him). There's also keen supporting work by fresh faces- Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn, and Laurence Fishburne as friends and sometimes followers of Rusty; Diane Lane (wonderful even in her youth) as a sweet/sour love interest; and Dennis Hopper as the father of Rusty James, who appears just enough to get the psychological points across to the viewer.

Coppola tends to use his symbols rather thickly, and it's arguable if he may show things too much, or maybe if he shows them just enough (i.e. skies darkening, clocks). Yet it doesn't stop him from creating indelible images- practically all the shots in the film could be put on a wall and look as great as any other by a professional photographer. With Stephen Barum and Dean Tavoularis (photographer and designer, respectively) scene after scene experiments with techniques (the fish is just a taste of this), and it's rather authentic in its respectfulness of the material. For example, in the gang fight, the style with which Coppola introduces characters controls the mis en scene, the editing and the use of shadows, all of this in this one sequence displays the tremendous directorial vision Coppola can have on a film.

It's not really a joyful film, and the downward spiral motif of the story may make some depressed with what they're seeing. But, if you want to see a very well-crafted film, the kind that gets better on repeat viewings (as with the Godfather films and Apocalypse Now), check it out- at least a viewer will get the sense of concise, complex film acting by young stars.


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