Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Francis Ford Coppola directs this drama in which an alienated teenager gets drawn into a series of gang fights as he desperately tries to emulate his missing elder brother. Starring Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane and Nicolas Cage.
Director Francis Ford Coppola had two films made in the year of this release – Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. Whilst The Outsiders was moderately successful at the box office, Rumble Fish bombed, grossing only $2.5million against a $10million budget.
Although this is not a disaster for me, I can sort of understand as to why this film didn’t do that particularly well when it was released. Rumble Fish certainly doesn’t match the exceptionally high standards of his work in the 1970s, both in the directing and writing departments.
The story of Rumble Fish concerns Rusty James (Matt Dillon) who, dissatisfied and fidgety, is pampering to cause trouble. Uninhibited by his mother and staying with his alcoholic father (Dennis Hopper), he spends time with his lover, Patty (Diane Lane), and his similarly wandering pals Midget (Larry Fishburne), Smokey (Nicolas Cage) and B.J. Jackson (Christopher Penn).
When his brother, the Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke), comes back to town, Rusty aims to get advance leadership and understanding from someone the majority believe is foolish.
Matt Dillon gives a good performance in his role as Rusty James, the teenager who is trying to cause fights quite literally wherever he goes.
Dillon would goon to star in better films following this appearance and the same can be rest of the cast, most notably Dennis Hopper as Rusty’s father who would appear in Blue Velvet three years earlier, while Diane Lane is fine as Patty, Rusty’s girlfriend who he hangs out with.
There are OK performances to be had from Larry Fishburne, Christopher Penn and Nicolas Cage in their respective roles as Midge, B.J. Jackson and Smokey, though the latter I think it will be more remembered for his part in Valley Girl.
Mickey Rourke gives a decent performance as the Motorcycle Boy, the young man who supports his brother in the best way he possibly can.
The direction from Coppola is good because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a tense atmosphere happening as well and the script is written to a decent-enough standard by the director and S. E. Hinton as the film is good enough to follow.
I say decent-enough, because there are some scenes that did not need to be in the final edit, so the duration perhaps didn’t need to be as long as it was and therefore the pace can be slow at times throughout.
Overall, Rumble Fish has good performances, direction and a decent-enough script, but the slow pace and long duration do make it forgettable at the same time.