Sakamoto Reviews’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Somebody outta put the fish in the river."
- The Motorcycle Boy
Rumble Fish is about a young man dealing with his identity and how he relates to his notorious older brother The Motorcycle Boy. I grew up reading the book and I even watched the movie a couple of times as a youngin but I hardly remember anything from either experiences.
The atmosphere is immaculate. Tulsa feels like a fairy tale, something out of legend. Much like Se7en it has a very eerie vibe and almost feels like something out of a dream. The direction is this movies saving grace. It's shot and edited very effectively even if it's working with some wonky dialogue and acting. Francis Ford Coppola even went on record to describe this movie as an art film for teenagers to learn about cinematography and aesthetic. The Black and White aesthetic relfects The Motorcycle Boys color blindness which is a smart choice but doesn't work very well when you remember the movie is from Rusty-James' perspective. The score is also very interesting as it's more percussion based as opposed to symphonic.
Some of the acting is good and some of it is kind of tismy. Matt Dillon is the discount Patrick Swayze, to me it doesn't matter how good or bad they are it's always a pleasure seeing them in a movie. That being said Matt Dillons acting isn't the best, I'd argue it's serviceable. Heartthrob Mickey Rourke also doesn't do anything very impressive. His performance is one of subtly and somberness. Ironically his performance is in direct conflict with his reputation which shows alot of growth character wise as we never see him as how Rusty-James emulates. The Motorcycle Boy is someone out of mythology, a character of legend and the film is better served by not showing us him as Rusty-James envisions.
The film is has flaws however, pacing is a big one as it almost feels like a bunch of conversations between Rusty-James and The Motorcycle Boy back to back. Rusty-James has a pretty deep cut after the opening brawl and all The Motorcycle Boy does is throw some alcohol over it. It's the layman's version of fixing a wound. There's a scene where Rusty-James and The Motorcycle Boy post up against a clock next to a cop and it's only meant for them to get talked down to by this cop, they weren't waiting for anyone or anything and they just leave to go somewhere else right after which makes it pretty unnecessary. Why did the cops shoot The Motorcycle Boy in the end? There's also a random narration from a character named Benny who isn't in the film at all. It might as well have been S.E. Hinton or Francis Ford Coppola narrating.
All in all I'm not sure if this is a really good adaptation but it serves decently well for a movie. I totally understand why people may not be on this vibe but it's one of those movies that I personally enjoy even with all of its many flaws.