Kai Wustlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
Finally I´m back from my „Morricone-break" ... However, and now for something completely different:
„I feel like I´m wasting my life, waiting for something. Waiting for what? I wish I had a reason to leave.“ (Rusty James)
So that´s now the processing of the topic "aimless youth" in Coppola's way, the history of which probably started entirely with James Dean and doesn´t end with Mr. Coppola's own "The Outsiders", released in the same year just a couple of months before this one.
And the whole thing is highly stylized and artificial. It´s to be noted, however, that an aura of realism and “dirt” has nevertheless been created which allows access to the figures, although it always appears cinematically installed.
On the surface, the movie hardly offers anything new and things of unique quality on the content level. But dismissing it because of that would be wrong a mistake. Because here, in an audiovisually exciting way, moods and emotions are translated, which often manage to condense the motifs into a pointed pose.
The choice of high-contrast black and white material was a brilliant decision in several respects and not simply a pretentious gesture by the director. Because this makes the strangely industrial-like settings look even stronger and the content even more reduced and clear. On the other hand, there is a clever duplication of the narrative perspective. Rusty James, whose name is initially used in a strangely penetrating manner, is more or less consciously a reflection of his older brother and idol "Motorcycle Boy", who enjoys an almost legendary reputation, but apparently isn´t the same person he once used to be. And he´s colour-blind, which is why the whole movie doesn´t need any of them, except for a handful of "colour key"-fish: the titular, metaphorically understandable fish.
Technically interesting are the timelapse effects that are used again and again, which illustrate the merciless, uneventful passage of time. In addition to the sometimes almost expressionistic imagery and various unusual shots and angles, it´s also the fantastic soundscape of Steward "The Police" Copeland, which is often arranged from atonal noises and percussions, rather than using melodies. Voices are sometimes distorted or peeled out of the movies reality level, so that the event gets an almost dreamlike atmosphere.
Fog is also a popular tool, occasionally there´s a hint of David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch blowing through the air.
The cast is dead good, Matt Dillon can convince in the main role of the simple-minded Rusty James. His initial battle against Biff Wilcox in a steaming setting is deliberately artificial and choreographed, feels strangely fallen out of time, ecstatic and is pithy edited, accompanied with stroboscopic lighting effects and a compelling energy.
It's also a nice little moment when he walks into the school building with squeaky sneakers and taut steps to get bored at Mr. Harrigan's office, collecting a telling-off.
Mickey Rourke as a shimmering, broken legend "Motorcycle Boy" plays unobtrusive, with a strangely high and almost whispering voice. Their scene in the local entertainment district is wonderful, when the two subliminally rivaling brothers talk about California, their mother, about future and it´s just as precisely staged as those in the backyard, whose special effects may take some getting used to, but work very well as poetic means of expression.
The ending can surely be guessed at, the last pictures of the fish in the river are both hopeful and illusory. At least one “rumble fish” finally reaches the sea as a supposed place of freedom and a new beginning.
Total: A moody, melancholic and partly introspective work, full of beautifully written characters and with a slightly surreal aura, which doesn't seem out of touch.