Film Review: Rumble Fish (1983)

Release Date: October 7th, 1983 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: S. E. Hinton, Francis Ford Coppola
Based on: Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane, Diana Scarwid, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Sofia Coppola, S. E. Hinton (cameo)

Zoetrope Studios, Hotweather Films, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“No, your mother… is not crazy. And neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother crazy. He’s merely miscast in a play. He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river… With the ability to be able to do anything that he wants to do and… findin’ nothin’ that he wants to do. I mean nothing.” – Father

Rumble Fish truly is the spiritual sequel to The Outsiders and was even released in the same year.

Francis Ford Coppola wrote this alongside S. E. Hinton, based off of her novel of the same name. She also wrote the young adult novel that Coppola adapted into The Outsiders.

This was thrown together pretty quickly and was worked on and developed while The Outsiders was still filming and while this was made much cheaper, shot in black and white and released through a different studio, the spirit of what made The Outsiders a truly special movie, also exists in this picture.

In some ways, due to the presentation and look of this picture, Rumble Fish is more majestic and magical. It also feels like it’s a story that takes place in the late ’50s or early ’60s but it features modern cars and other inventions that wouldn’t have been around in the same era as The Outsiders. It’s hard to peg exactly when this takes place but that just adds to the otherworldliness of it.

That being said, I love the use of black and white and the overall cinematography of this picture. It’s pretty high contrast and stylish and it reminds me of classic film-noir but sort of has the energy of one of those Japanese neo-noir pictures by Seijun Suzuki. And no, I wouldn’t consider this a neo-noir but it just shares a very similar visual presentation.

Coppola also brought back some of the actors from The Outsiders, primarily Matt Dillon and Diane Lane. However, the additions to the cast like Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn and Laurence Fishburne were all great. The cast is pretty packed with talent ala The Outsiders but I’m glad that it shuffled the deck somewhat and brought in some fresh faces, allowing this to stand on its own.

So while this shares similar themes to the other movie I keep mentioning, this has its own unique story that I found to be really interesting. It has different beats, moves at a more rapid pace and ultimately, has a very different but still tragic ending.

I’m kind of surprised that long-time fans of The Outsiders haven’t heard of or seen this movie. It’s a perfect companion piece to it and it hits you in a very similar way while not being a complete rehash of what you’ve already seen before.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Outsiders (1983)

Release Date: March 25th, 1983
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: Kathleen Rowell
Based on: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Music by: Carmine Coppola
Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Leif Garrett, Tom Waits, S. E. Hinton (cameo)

Zoetrope Studios, Warner Bros., 91 Minutes (original theatrical), 114 Minutes (2005 extended edition)

Review:

Francis Ford Coppola was once an amazing director. Some of his work, later in life, just doesn’t compare to his earlier films. At the height of his quality run, he directed The Outsiders.

This film is a classic but it seems to have faded away in recent years. When I was growing up, this movie was on television all the time and it was something that just about everyone had seen and loved. I’ve never met anyone who has seen the film and not had a favorable opinion about it.

Part of its greatness, is that it boasts some serious talent. The Outsiders is packed full of 1980s male icons and this was just before they all broke out and became huge stars. Coppola had a real eye for talent, as almost every single young man in this movie went on to have pretty big careers.

The movie is based off of a stellar novel. The story follows a few young men in 1960s Tulsa, Oklahoma. The main characters are from the wrong side of the tracks and are a part of a gang referred to as the Greasers. Their rivals are the rich kids who live across town. They are called the Socs (pronounced “so-shiz”, as it is short for “socials”). There is a violent confrontation and the youngest kid in the Greasers stabs and kills a Soc in an effort to prevent his best friend from being drowned in a park fountain. The kids go on the run and hide out but while away, they save a bunch of children from a burning schoolhouse and are branded heroes. All the while, Johnny, the youngest Greaser, is hospitalized due to burns and smoke inhalation. Everything leads to a big rumble, two huge tragedies for the group and the boys learning that they have to be each other’s family in a world that rejects them.

The Outsiders is a beautiful motion picture backed by a beautiful score. It also features a fantastic title track by Stevie Wonder. Unfortunately, the score is replaced by popular 1960s tunes in the 2005 extended edition of the film. Now the extended edition is great for all the deleted scenes that were put back into the movie, making it almost a half hour longer, but it loses the emotional weight of the original version due to trading out the perfect score for 60s rock and roll. While the music is fitting to the historical time of the movie, it is distracting if you’ve seen The Outsiders in its original form. I hope that there is eventually an extended edition with the original music restored.

The Outsiders is in the upper echelon of Francis Ford Coppola’s oeuvre. While it is not a pillar of perfection like The Godfather I and II, it is better than the best movies of many other accomplished directors.

Rating: 9.75/10