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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Rumble Fish" (1983) Rated "R" by the MPAA for Adult Situations, Profanity, Brief Nudity, Some Violence, Minor Gore, Brief Drug Use & Underage Alcohol Use. Running Time 1hr&34mn. My Take: ***1/2 (Out of ****)
"Rumble Fish" just might be Francis Ford Coppola's most overlooked film.
This movie, based on the Susan E. Hinton novel, tells about young street tough Rusty-James (Matt Dillion) who idolizes his older brother known only as 'The Motorcycle Boy' (Mickey Rourke).
Rusty-James longs for the days of rumbles and being a part of a gang. His friends are somewhat reluctant to feel the same way. His girlfriend Patty (Diane Lane) goes to an all-girl prep school. She's supportive of Rusty-James' need for acceptance and wanting to be cool like his estranged brother. "You're better than cool", she reminds him. "You're warm!" That's also a warning. Will Rusty-James heed?
Subtly, this is a film about the failure of the 'American Dream' and making choices, whether right or wrong. After all, Rusty-James' family fell product of the socialization process. They live in the slums, but that may not always have been the case. The boys' alcoholic father, memorably played by Dennis Hopper, was once a well-to-do lawyer earlier in life. What about the enigmatic Motorcycle Boy? Is he truly crazy? Or does he have 'an acute perception' that drives him crazy?
Brilliantly shot in black & white, Stephen H. Burum's cinema-photography makes "Rumble Fish" feel like something out of a chaotic dream. Everything is surreal, yet relative to each other. Clouds stream by overhead symbolizing the passage of time. Clocks appear throughout the movie suggesting time-is-a-burnin'. The suggestion here is: don't waste the time you do have while you still can. Stewart Copeland's almost all percussion and highly rhythmic score adds to that effect.
In "Rumble Fish", Coppola skillfully addresses the need to belong, to lead, to have goals, to have vision and warns not to fall deeper into an urban trap. Will Rusty-James discover what it means to step out and become his own identity before it's too late? As The Motorcycle Boy points out, "If you're going to lead people, you need to have somewhere to go."
That's good advice.
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