Aidan F’s review published on Letterboxd:
If I got paid a pound whenever every character said Rusty James's name out loud in Rumble Fish, I would have a lot of pounds. Seriously, does everyone in the world of Rumble Fish just like the tone of it? I think it's a lame name truth be told. Let's ignore this minor nitpick though - Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish is not one of my favourite films from him. Before Coppola committed career seppuku with Jack, Francis's movies have a distinguishable, hardened edge that the human eye found immensely pleasurable. Rumble Fish is an up-close and personal film; it merits the qualities found in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now and takes it to the mythos of urban gang warfare. In fact, I think Rumble Fish is Coppola's most masculine film to date.
I cannot fault the craft of Rumble Fish; Stephen H. Burum's wide-angled and monochrome cinematography gives the film a surreal atmosphere - it perfectly complements the eerie sound design. When Rusty James first confronts a gang leader in an underground parking lot is a great example of the crew nailing the technical craft. Also, Stewart Copeland's rhythmic and percussion-heavy score is sublime too and acts as the cherry on top of the already faultless production. What doesn't work for me is that the performances are a mixed bag. Matt Dillon's broad and blunt Rusty James feels miscast, and Mickey Rourke is okay as Rusty's elder and subdued brother. And then some of the side cast work wonders too, Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits fit perfectly into Coppola's vision as the wild mavericks that they are.
Rumble Fish is flat in comparison to the richness found in Coppola's 70's golden run. Whilst Rumble Fish's style is like a cross-over between Sin City and The Warriors, the substance found in the characterisation is lacklustre. But Rumble Fish was the worth the time even if it is lesser Coppola. I just wish Copeland had a longlasting career as a composer when he reached the 21st century. He's one hell of a skilled musician.