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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 9 January 2008
Rumble Fish is a strange and hypnotic film that follows the character of Rusty James, a young punk growing up in a small sleepy mid-western town, shackled to a drunken father, a group of fickle friends, and continually in the shadow of his enigmatic brother, The Motorcycle Boy. The film, although seemingly set in the present day, uses the style of the old 50's melodramas to great effect, referencing the likes of Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One with it's stark, stylised black and white photography and it's bizarre compositions, whilst director Francis Ford Coppola uses a number of audio and visual effects familiar from his previous films, most notably, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now and One From the Heart, to give the film a strange, hypnotic and dreamlike quality that lingers throughout the film.

As with many of the other films that it references, the plot to Rumble Fish is quite simple, with Coppola building the film around the enigma of The Motorcycle Boy and around the ideas of family ties, small-town ennui and personal redemption. Although Rusty James is the film's central character, he is constantly overshadowed by his mysterious brother, who seems almost shell-shocked by whatever it is that he's witnessed during his years away from home. He is certainly one of the most interesting characters from any of Coppola's greater films, and is perfectly brought to life by Mickey Rourke in what is possibly his greatest performance ever (although, I think he's equally spellbinding in both Angel Heart and Year of the Dragon). Here, Rourke possess all the cool and feckless attitude of Brando and James Dean, but he also brings that damaged, somewhat alienated quality to role, which suggests so much about the characters and his past and also, about the possible future of the younger Rusty James.

The cinematic style of the film is exquisite, with Coppola invoking a real period feel through the use of photography and production design, which jars beautifully against Stuart Copeland's very 80's, very anachronistic score. The percussion suits the staccato editing style that Coppola uses in the first few scenes (which highlights the escalating boredom of the characters), whilst the use of time-lapse photography (inspired by the film Koyaanisqatsi, which Coppola produced) works perfectly in demonstrating the idea of time frittering away. The black and white photography works well, conveying the literally "black and white" view point of Rusty James, whilst the titular rumble fish (glimpsed through the window of the local pet store) are the only objects in the film that appear in colour (a nice metaphor). The sound design is purposely muddy, attempting to convey along with the images that skewed, slightly alienated view of the world that these characters possess, whilst Copeland's music also merges with the sound design to heighten the overall atmosphere of the film.

The acting is strong throughout, with Rourke coming across as the real standout, although the performance of Matt Dillon as the hotheaded and arrogant Rusty James is also impressive. The supporting cast features a wide array of cult performers and (then) unknowns that have now gone on to greater things, notably Dennis Hopper, Diane Lane, William Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Nicolas Cage, Tom Waits and Chris Penn. After Rumble Fish, Coppola would produce the problematic Cotton Club (possibly underrated), before cementing his reputation as something of a has-been with the third Godfather film, and throwaways like Jack, Peggy Sue Got Married and The Rainmaker. Because of this, Rumble Fish stands as something of a relic to the time when he was one of the most interesting American directors of his era... and is probably a film to rival the greatness of The Godfather, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.
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on 29 May 2005
Rumble Fish is a strange and hypnotic film that follows the character of Rusty James, a young punk growing up in a small sleepy mid-western town, shackled to a drunken father, a group of fickle friends, and continually in the shadow of his enigmatic brother, The Motorcycle Boy. The film, although seemingly set in the present day, uses the style of the old 50's melodramas to great effect, referencing the likes of Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One with it's stark, stylised black and white photography and it's bizarre compositions, whilst director Francis Ford Coppola uses a number of audio and visual effects familiar from his previous films, most notably, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now and One From the Heart, to give the film a strange, hypnotic and dreamlike quality that lingers throughout the film.
As with many of the other films that it references, the plot to Rumble Fish is quite simple, with Coppola building the film around the enigma of The Motorcycle Boy and around the ideas of family ties, small-town ennui and personal redemption. Although Rusty James is the film's central character, he is constantly overshadowed by his mysterious brother, who seems almost shell-shocked by whatever it is that he's witnessed during his years away from home. He is certainly one of the most interesting characters from any of Coppola's greater films, and is perfectly brought to life by Mickey Rourke in what is possibly his greatest performance ever (although, I think he's equally spellbinding in both Angel Heart and Year of the Dragon). Here, Rourke possess all the cool and feckless attitude of Brando and James Dean, but he also brings that damaged, somewhat alienated quality to role, which suggests so much about the characters and his past and also, about the possible future of the younger Rusty James.
The cinematic style of the film is exquisite, with Coppola invoking a real period feel through the use of photography and production design, which jars beautifully against Stuart Copeland's very 80's, very anachronistic score. The percussion suits the staccato editing style that Coppola uses in the first few scenes (which highlights the escalating boredom of the characters), whilst the use of time-lapse photography (inspired by the film Koyaanisqatsi, which Coppola produced) works perfectly in demonstrating the idea of time frittering away. The black and white photography works well, conveying the literally "black and white" view point of Rusty James, whilst the titular rumble fish (glimpsed through the window of the local pet store) are the only objects in the film that appear in colour (a nice metaphor). The sound design is purposely muddy, attempting to convey along with the images that skewed, slightly alienated view of the world that these characters possess, whilst Copeland's music also merges with the sound design to heighten the overall atmosphere of the film.
The acting is strong throughout, with Rourke coming across as the real standout, although the performance of Matt Dillon as the hotheaded and arrogant Rusty James is also impressive. The supporting cast features a wide array of cult performers and (then) unknowns that have now gone on to greater things, notably Dennis Hopper, Diane Lane, William Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Nicolas Cage, Tom Waits and Chris Penn. After Rumble Fish, Coppola would produce the problematic Cotton Club (possibly underrated), before cementing his reputation as something of a has-been with the third Godfather film, and throwaways like Jack, Peggy Sue Got Married and The Rainmaker. Because of this, Rumble Fish stands as something of a relic to the time when he was one of the most interesting American directors of his era... and is probably a film to rival the greatness of The Godfather, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.
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on 19 February 2006
I vaguely remembered Rumble Fish from my youth - although not as clearly as the original book of it's companion The Outsiders which was a rare case of a teen book being taught well in school. Anyway, Rumble Fish has got a pretty awesome cast, so I thought it might be worth revisiting. I was so glad I did. We watched it with eldest teenage offspring who is pretty hard to please on the entertainment front and he decreed it "pretty cool". It's an incredibly poignant look at loss, longing and being subject to the vagaries of the world. The setting is in the aftermath of an era of gang warfare which has been mythologised by the younger generation - but the myths are dust. It's tragic and provocative and I would highly recommend it for anyone with teenagers who are maybe starting to think about walking on the wilder side. It explores friendship, loyalty, peer-pressure and that awful straining to make your mark that is the plague of adolescence. It also isnt't at all preachy and the cool, noir-ish camera work makes it a very moody experience indeed.
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on 22 December 2013
got this as had just got The Outsders for my daughters to watch. Had to get Rumble Fish also as made at same time. I remember watching them at 14 or so and as my youngest daughter is this age, is quite sweet. Shame she loves Matt Dillon as he is as old as me now. Arty movie, like the way it's shot, but prefer The Outsiders.
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on 12 May 2003
So, reviewing this movie for me is not so easy. Why? Because this is one of my all time favourites and not being excessively positive is hard. But I'll try my best to be somewhat objective.
The film follows two brothers, one of them a legend - Motocycle Boy - and the younger one living in his shadow trying to be like him but can't. In the beginning of the film Motocycle Boy reappears after having been away on a journey for a while. Motorcycle Boy has become a legend amongst the street gangs where his younger brother is spending his time. The film then on explores the complex relationship between the brothers and potrays both of them in a sensitive way. The Motorcycle Boy as a distant myth and his younger brother screaming to him to make him come back.
Enough of the story - it's better to see it yourself. But don't expect a gangmovie, it's more of a drama.
Filmed in black and white with some symbolic details in colour it's a beautiful movie. The quality of DVD is good and you'll get some extra info with it, the usual stuff - nothing above average. Something above average though are the actors appearing in the movie - Dennis Hopper, Mickey Rourke, Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Nicolas Cage and many more. Everyone doing an excellent job!
It's a movie you can see many times. Every time there is a new level of the film and the relationships it explores to discover.
Enough said, my advice - buy it!
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on 8 August 2012
Insightful commentary on the bonus DVDS; a fabulous film that I remember watching first as a student about twenty years ago. The sumptuous black and white is beautiful and the film is a timeless classic. For those people who like Coppola, Hinton or any of the great actors - a brilliant investment that you can watch again and again.

Baz Luhrmann also stole a scene from this in the famous 'fish-tank' scene from Romeo and Juliet!

A great, great movie.
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on 26 November 2008
No need to go into the plot, which is covered by other reviewers. No need to point out the superlative performances by Matt Dillon as the hero-worshipping Rusty James (always called RustyJames, never by his first name) and Mickey Rourke as the enigmatic Motorcycle Boy. Dillon's bruised beauty is hypnotic, and comparisons with James Dean, and Brando in The Wild One The Wild One [1954] are inevitable. Rourke is equally haunting because he is so quiet, so still, so deliberate. Career bests for both of them.

What irritates me about the film is the way the self-consciously arty Direction by Coppola gets in the way of telling the story. Endless shots of darkening skies, deep-focus compositions which draw attention to their own beauty and away from the characters. The symbolism is laid on with a trowel. The one trick which does work is the use of spot colour for the Siamese Fighting Fish (the Rumblefish of the title) in an otherwise Black and White movie. But again Coppola has to nudge us: the fish fight, says Rourke, because they don't have space - a metaphor for the stunted lives of small-town American youth; Motorcycle Boy has to free them in the same way he frees RustyJames by giving him his motorbike and saying, Ride to the Ocean.

The film tries hard to match the resonances of the 50s classics of teenage rebellion. But tries is the operative word.
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on 9 September 2012
Not a big fan of Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 film Rumble Fish (too much drama) but it goes well with Coppola's The Outsiders (which was filmed just before filming began on Rumble Fish). I have seen so-so transfers here in the US over the years, so I was intrigued by it finally making a blu ray debut. Plus in a steelbook was cool. I am thankful I have a region free blu ray so I can enjoy blu rays like this and The Outsiders (both region B). I wasn't going to bother with a review, but after watching this disc a few times, I knew I had to share my excitement on this wonderful transfer that Eureka has done. I have never seen this black and white film look so detailed before! Even on DVD the picture comes across as soft and fuzzy (at least the US version from Universal), but the clarity is a sight to be seen here on this blu ray. There is some grain and I am so thankful that Eureka didn't use noise reduction (at least not much) to remove the grain and thus removing the detail. I love the photography in this film. So much depth where everything seems in focus (not to the extent as The Last Picture Show) where your eyes are always working to absorb everything going on within each frame. This is the best this film has ever looked! I am glad that Universal licensed this film to the Masters of Cinema series because they did a marvelous job on this one. Besides the fantastic looking video, the audio has been spruced up to DTS-HD 5.1 and sounds really good (for the purists there is the original two channel stereo track) for a film that came out in 1983. The special features are nothing to write home about, though. The audio commentary by Coppola is very entertaining (I just love to hear this great director talk about filmmaking). There is a short documentary on the location the film was shot (Tulsa, Oklahoma) and some unwatchable deleted scenes that came from a very dark video tape. And a short piece on the film's soundtrack.
Too bad there never was a "director's cut" of this film. I would love to see more depth of these individual characters and why they were the way they were. I haven't read the book yet, but I will now that I have experienced this movie and wanting more. Too bad Universal didn't let Coppola add the deleted scenes into the film at least. The Vincent Spano character should have more screen time. Too much Matt Dillon (yawn) and how "he" affects those around him and his world.
As is, the film I give three and a half stars and the marvelous blu ray gets the five stars it deserves. This is a blu ray review and NOT the movie review. Plus did I mention it is offered in a steelbook case? Those are so cool.
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on 1 June 2005
This really is a superb movie, and I am pleasantly surprised to see it so well loved by people other than thirty somethings like myself, trying recapture their teenage years. It really has the essence of those classic 1950's movies that starred Brando and Dean but more updated, and without losing any of its originality.
Dennis Hopper is excellent as the brothers' alcoholic father-and has this wonderful crazed, pained, look in his eye throughout the film. All the performances are really good, but it is probably Micky Rourkes' finest hour as the evocative "Motorcycle Boy".
My favourite line in the whole movie is when he says to his brother Rusty James (Matt Dillon) in that really amazing low whisper, "California? yeah California's like.. a beautiful wild.. beautiful wild girl on heroine.. who's as high as a kite thinking she's on top of the world.. but wouldnt know she was dying- even if you showed her the marks."
I think once you've seen this movie you will never forget it. And if you like it I would also really recommend "The Outsiders"-also made by Francis Ford Coppola and based on another S.E Hinton novel.
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on 13 October 2012
A 5 star film, but only a 4 star Blu-ray, because they have botched the stereo soundtrack option. Instead of being glorious original stereo it is bland 2 channel mono. The 5.1 surround track is good - but all the dialogue is directed through the centre channel, and it is often drowned out by the volume of the other channels.

The other botched aspect is that out of all the special features which Universal have brought forward from their "Special Edition" DVD release (2005 in USA on a single disc, 2007 in UK on 2 discs), the only feature which does not also appear on this Blu-ray is the official music video for "Don't Box Me In", featuring Stan Ridgway and Stewart Copeland. For true fans of this film (and of Ridgway and Copeland) the "Special Edition" DVD has just become indispensable.

The Blu-ray edition main feature certainly does look better than the "Special Edition" DVD (and that DVD only offered Dolby 5.1 for that feature). For many people the increase in quality may not be noticeable - and I expect they will be much happier saving quite a bit of money by buying the more fully featured Special Edition DVD version.
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