There was a period in Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) life where he went through a bit of a phase, where he was making films based on relatively obscure material. And he went through another smaller phase in the early ‘80s where he was making films from source material of author S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders). And Rumble Fish was one of those.
Based on Hinton’s novel, the film details the life in a small town, with a tough neighborhood kid n…med Rusty James (Matt Dillon, Crash) who is pleasantly surprised when his brother, the Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke, Sin City) returns to town after traveling in California. Motorcycle Boy has come back to town with a larger perspective on life. He’s not the tough guy in town that everyone looked up to, or respected, he’s seen more of the real world and knows what’s really important.
Before Motorcycle Boy came back to town, Rusty James had a friend who was a little bit of a weakling in Steve (Vincent Spano, Alive) and a girlfriend named Patty (Diane Lane, The Cotton Club). Among the people within Rusty James gang were younger actors that are very familiar to you now, including Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), Christopher Penn (Reservoir Dogs) and a newer family talent named Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men, The Weather Man). When Motorcycle Boy comes back to town, their view of Rusty James changes too. A respect, or even loyalty, is lost, because they seem to think that Rusty is a little more like his father (played by Dennis Hopper, Speed) than his brother.
Some people have looked at Coppola’s film as more of an overlooked gem in an already well-known resume, but having never seen the film before, to hear Coppola later describe is as an art house film (I thought it had a lot of noir touches to it) is pretty dead on. However, I didn’t really see as much of the masterful touches in that as other people might. I find it rather disjointed, Dillon and Rourke were at the height of their popularity around the time of this film, and I don’t understand what people where thinking when they fawned over both of them. Maybe I’m not as refined as I’d like to think I am, but there’s not a lot here to carry a film.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the black and white film stock that Rumble Fish is reproduced quite vividly, without a lot of artifacts or noise. Because of the black and white nature of the film, it shows some of the age more than a color film would, so it’s not really a pristine transfer, but it looks excellent, all things considered.
The 20 year old Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds pretty good and is enveloping. There is some surround activity, and the overall sound stage sounds much bigger than I expected. Another solid work from the Coppola library.
Coppola’s longtime DVD producer Kim Aubry has put together a respectable package of supplemental material for this release. First is a commentary by Coppola that it’s good, as his commentaries usually are. He reminisces on the production and its context within his career, and he can’t get away from another commentary without defending daughter Sofia’s work in The Godfather III. OK, we get it, it was a pressure decision and she didn’t do so bad, but it’s been 15 years, move on already, we know that she has. There’s a look at the production that includes very little new footage (and no new cast interviews), but everyone talks about how crazy Hopper was, which is funny. Along with six deleted scenes that run for about 20 minutes, there’s a video and trailer that complete the package.
If you like noir films, then you’ll probably like this one, but otherwise, if you trying to decide which film within the Francis Ford Coppola/S.E. Hinton collaboration to rent or even buy, pick up The Outsiders. The extended cut looks good, and there’s a lot more bonus material on it to enjoy.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Making of Featurette
- Music Video