Trevor Wang’s review published on Letterboxd:
“If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go.” -- The Motorcycle Boy
Based on the novel by S. E. Hinton, Rumble Fish is Francis Ford Coppola's stylized vision of adolescence and life of Rusty James, a restless and vibrant street thug is stuck living in a small town and struggles living up to his older brother's legend, while also longing for the old days when gang fights occurred. As Rusty's brother, The Motorcycle Boy, rides home from his trip to California, tension mounts. Rusty follows his brother everywhere and lives in his shadow until police brutality causes a tragic scar.
Rumble Fish presents an emotionally charged storytelling, with an incredible cast with some cool dialogues that are so quotable. Some of the young actors will become stars later on. The story is accompanied by Stewart Copeland's powerful percussive score that highlights the declining reputation and romance. Meanwhile, Stephen H. Burum's cinematography is truly stunning in black and white visuals, time lapse of floating clouds, canted camera angles, contrast of light and shadows in German Expressionist style, deep depth of field of various characters against architecture in the background, and the surreal sequence of Rusty floating is very dreamy.
In terms of symbolism, fighter fishes represent the tough teens dealing with their estrangement and reconciliation. As the brothers observe the colourful fishes, older brother comments on how they fight their own reflections in front of mirrors.
Rusty James: "The colors are cool."
The Motorcycle Boy: "Makes me kind of sorry I can't see the colors."
Rusty James: "I never thought you were sorry about anything."
Towards the end, when Rusty is furious after the incident and sees himself reflected in colour in front of the police car window, he smashes it with his fist before running away in despair. The delicate use of colour in this film is visually striking!