Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama Rumble Fish (1983)

Rumble Fish (1983)

Producer/Director Francis Ford Coppola demonstrates his genius in the making of this film. Having the acumen to allow the novelist to adapt his own work to the screen was, in itself, part of that brilliance. And S. E. Hinton succeeds to every expectation. Rumble Fish is by no means typical to any genre, standing alone as an interesting exploration into the human psyche and in the myriad of ways to express it. It is an American Le Etranger lacking nothing Camus has given to existential circumstance.

Even more, this film beautifully orchestrates one reflection of the social condition after another, demonstrating how boxed in worlds can be to the unexploring and how purpose must be behind cause. While the societal evils hang about us all, too often due to failings to find out what cages like closed-in ghetto neighborhoods and no broader perspective for inhabitants can become.

This is a story of a young man trapped in both such a closed proximity and living on an ideal even more enclosing, that of idealizing his older brother. Matt Dillon is Rusty James, growing up under the shadow of his multiply gifted brother, euphemistically referred to as, The Motorcycle Boy (a Mickey Rourke role if there ever was.) Within the poverty of this setting young men’s ambitions revert to the street and to the “action” there to be taken with the cunning and guile of gang life. But these are not drug gangs and criminal only in extreme cases where their rumbles with other gangs sometimes get out of hand.

The boys’ intricately understanding father, eloquent when not blotted out by drinking, is the immeasurable Dennis Hopper. The closeness of the three has little emotional basis if left out of the close ties that exist beyond clutching affection. Hinton captures this beautifully in his book; Coppola captures it even better on the screen.

What “rumble fish” means in a literal sense is carried to the height of symbolism into euphemism by elegantly told circumstance. And with this is an analogy of “breaking out to the sea” which the older brother has experienced and makes the ultimate sacrifice to promote his brother, ironically enslaved by his example, to do the same.

Motorcycle Boy can tell his younger brother, “you can lead, but what’s the point if you have nowhere to go?” but the words do not suffice. With his own disenchantment with life, only his brother seems to remain of value to him. And in this light the movie’s end will have a very moving ending.

The lovely and talented Diane Lane and Diana Scarwid play girl friends of these two brothers, hurt and even emotionally tortured by the struggle both undergo. Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne have supporting roles well executed.

The film is shot in black and white…with a rather strange exception…at first, strange.

Some upper nudity, little strong language and a lot of interesting lines. Like, “he can do anything; he just can’t find anything he wants to do”. (Some life stories in those lines.)

Highly, highly recommended.

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