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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
4,619 ( 378)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. 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:

Rusty James can't live up to his brother's reputation. His brother can't live it down. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

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:

Rumble Fish See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$18,985, 10 October 1983

Gross USA:

$2,494,480

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$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

After auditioning for a role in The Outsiders (1983) and not being cast, Francis Ford Coppola decided that Mickey Rourke would better suit this role, and gave him the role of The Motorcycle Boy instead. 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 At the Movies: Summer Special 2008/09 (2008) 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

See more »

User Reviews

 
An effective, well-acted and visually stimulating art-house movie - the forgotten masterpiece of Francis Ford Coppola
26 October 2005 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

They say art films died out in the '80s, and they also say Francis Ford Coppola sold out after "Apocalypse Now," but this is truthfully his last visionary film. It may not be a flawless masterpiece on the same level as the aforementioned movie or "The Godfather," or even "The Conversation" (one of his absolute best), but it's still very good - beautiful to look at, poetic, and visually stimulating.

It was the second film he released in 1983 adapted from an S.E. Hinton book. His first ("The Outsiders") was cleaner than this. "Rumble Fish" has a lot of violence, a lot of swearing, and a decent amount of sex/nudity. It is the flip side to "The Outsiders"; and in my opinion, the more mature work of the two (although both are very good).

Matt Dillon gives his best performance as Rusty James, a 1950s street punk whose alcoholic father has all but walked out on him, and whose older brother (an enigmatic figure known only as The Motorcycle Boy) has left and moved to California some time ago.

We are led to infer that The Motorcycle Boy was a sort of rebel hero - a type of Robin Hood, as Rusty James says - and the entire town loves him. As a result, Rusty James "can't live up to his brother's reputation...and his brother can't live it down," to quote the film's tagline.

But The Motorcycle Boy returns one day in the form of Mickey Rourke. He rescues his kid brother from a violent underground fight with a group of thugs and takes him back to the safety of their home.

The Motorcycle Boy has come back in order to make amends, one supposes; or at least because he feels as if he has an obligation to see his father and brother again.

Meanwhile, Rusty James - in a desperate intent to match his brother's reputation - continues his downward spiral of street fights and violence, resulting in more than a few bloody brawls.

"Rumble Fish" is displayed in grainy black-and-white, and the soundtrack itself is surreal, often featuring fragments of distorted audio matched with hazy visuals. At first it doesn't seem to make sense, but then it is revealed that The Motorcycle Boy has a hearing problem that comes and goes at random (typically when he is under stress) - and is colorblind, which explains the b&w photography.

This is a great decision by Coppola because it gives the film an authentic feeling; at first, we feel as if we are following Rusty James' plight, but then once we pull back it becomes obvious we are watching through the eyes of The Motorcycle Boy himself. Coppola's experimentation with color in a few shots is something we're only now seeing take form again in movies like "Sin City" (which also featured Rourke). "Schindler's List" had a few moments of color and b&w, too, but it wasn't as frequent.

The performances are excellent. An all-star cast includes not only Dillon and Rourke but also Diane Lane (who was also in "The Outsiders" with Dillon), Dennis Hopper, Diana Scywid, Vincent Spano and Nicolas Cage.

Dillon's performance is key to the film because essentially this is his story, but it's being narrated to a certain effect by The Motorcycle Boy (at least insofar that it's his problems taking form in the narrative) - and Rourke gives a terrific performance. His moody, quiet embodiment of The Motorycle Boy leaves a lasting impression; his character comes across as a somber, reflective and ultimately regretful man who made bad decisions in his past and now wants to protect his brother from the same thing. It is implied that he may even have become a mail hustler on the streets of CA; his persistence to not tell any details of his adventure, and the fact that he sees a photo of himself posing in front of a bike ("taken by a guy in California," he tells his brother) in a magazine, and then asks Rusty James not to tell anyone, could be perceived as such. Or maybe not. It all depends on how far you want to look into it.

"Rumble Fish" may not be Francis Ford Coppola's best film, but it is one of his most sadly underrated movies and is probably worth mentioning in a list of the best films of the 1980s. In a decade where American art-house seemed to be a lost thought, "Rumble Fish" stands out as one of the few.


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