Matt Dillon as Rusty James
Mickey Rourke as The Motorcycle Boy
Diane Lane as Patty
Dennis Hopper as Father
Diana Scarwid as Cassandra
Vincent Spano as Steve
Nicolas Cage as Smokey
Chris Penn as B.J. Jackson
Laurence Fishburne as Midget
William Smith as Patterson the Cop
Michael Higgins as Mr. Harrigan
Glenn Withrow as Biff Wilcox
Tom Waits as Benny
Herb Rice as Black Pool Player
Maybelle Wallace as Late Pass Clerk
Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola
On Location in Tulsa: The Making of Rumble Fish
Rumble Fish: The Percussion-Based Score
“Don’t Box Me In” Music Video
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
This film was originally released in 1983. The following is the description from the DVD cover:
“Academy Award winner Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy) directs this unforgettable story of a young man’s struggle to live up to his adored brother’s reputation in an impoverished industrial town. Matt Dillon (Wild Things) and Mickey Rourke (Barfly) are Rusty James and The Motorcycle Boy, and lead an all-star cast including Nicolas Cage (Adaptation), Dennis Hopper (Speed) and Diane Lane (Under the Tuscan Sun). This extraordinary adaptation of the best-seller by S.E. Hinton features a Golden Globe-winning score by Stewart Copeland of The Police, and reminds us that if you’re going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go.”
Rumble Fish is rated R.
Though I had seen The Outsiders and read the book by S.E. Hinton, I never saw Rumble Fish until it arrived on DVD. Unfortunately I wasn’t all that impressed. In the commentary, Francis Ford Coppola describes it as being an art house film for teens, and that’s a pretty good explanation for what it is. The story is very abstract at times, a few scenes are very artsy, and many of the characters are quite weird. This is not a movie for everyone. I understand what they were trying to do with the mythology and I understood the themes they were trying to get across, but this movie just wasn’t to my personal tastes. I found it to be slow, I didn’t think any of the characters were very identifiable or sympathetic, and in the end I didn’t find Rusty James’ angst all that entertaining.
For me, the most notable thing about Rumble Fish was the casting. There are a lot of young actors in this film that went on to become big names. Matt Dillon is good as the street punk Rusty James. He’s good looking, but he makes so many mistakes on purpose that it’s hard to like the guy. Then you have Mickey Rourke as The Motorcycle Boy, a legend among the local kids. I didn’t care for him at all because he always mumbled, he was moody, and I never really sympathized with his depression. Plus his name was odd. In a smaller role is Diane Lane as Patty, Rusty’s love interest. She’s quite pretty in the film and it’s easy to see why Coppola cast her again after The Outsiders. Also in the film in cameo roles are Dennis Hopper as Rusty’s Father, Nicolas Cage as Smokey, Laurence Fishburne as Midget, Tom Waits as Benny, and Sofia Coppola as Donna, Patty’s Sister. You can even spot author S.E. Hinton in a cameo as a hooker.
One thing I didn’t realize about Rumble Fish before watching it is that it is almost all in black and white. I didn’t find that it helped or hurt the movie, but I did find that it made it hard to place what year the movie was set in. Originally I thought it was the early 60’s, then the 70’s. By the time I saw video games, I knew this was set in 1983, the year it was released. Francis Ford Coppola adds nice touches throughout the film like clocks in many scenes to emphasize the fact that time is running out for our characters. A few switches from black and white to color are also made though they don’t do much for the story.
I wouldn’t recommend watching Rumble Fish unless you’re a big fan of the main actors or Francis Ford Coppola or if you’re into art house films. The meandering plot and obscure themes won’t appeal to most mainstream audiences.
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD:
Deleted scenes Six deleted scenes are included on the DVD. I didn’t find them to be very noteworthy. One featured more dialogue between Rusty and his friends. Another featured more dialogue between Rusty and his brother. Another showed Rusty being asked by the school coach to beat up one of the students for him.
Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola Coppola delivers a very interesting commentary. It would have been more fun if the actors joined in, but he does share a lot of interesting bits of trivia about the making of the movie. He discusses everything from shooting in Tulsa to the themes of the movie to making his nephew Nicolas Cage do a nude scene.
On Location in Tulsa: The Making of Rumble Fish This is a very short “making of” video featuring interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. There are even bits of recent interviews mixed in with vintage stuff.
Rumble Fish: The Percussion-Based Score – Composer Steward Copeland, Sound Designer Richard Beggs, and Director Francis Ford Coppola are all featured in this extra. They talk about how the director recruited the Police drummer to make the score for the film. He talks about the tricks he used, how he created the music for certain scenes, and more. The story behind the music is more interesting than the music itself.
“Don’t Box Me In” Music Video This is a vintage music video featuring the theme from the movie sung with clips playing in the background. Like the film itself, it’s in black and white.
The Bottom Line:
Rumble Fish is a bit too artsy for many audiences, but fans of Dillon, Lane, Rourke, or Coppola will want to check it out.