Rumble Fish ★★★★½

If Fellini directed a mash up of West Side Story and Night of the Hunter.

The movie seems to take place out of time, and not in any particular location. I think they say Tulsa at one point, but this could be any small town in America. The characters and businesses have a 50's sort of vibe to them, but growing up in the Midwest in the 1980's most people and places then also still had a 50's sort of vibe. Many still do.

Matt Dillion plays Rusty James. A teenager who wants to be a big man around town, or at least in the bars and in the streets. He is nostalgic for the era of the street gangs. Mickey Rourke plays "The Motorcycle Boy", Rusty James' older brother. He is a legend in the town. He is too cool for his own good. Rusty James would give anything to be his brother, and The Motorcycle Boy would give anything not to be himself.

The film is shot in black and white, with flashes of color thrown in from time to time. The score has a lot of tick tock of timepieces, and thump thumps of heartbeats. When it is more traditional score, it is a melodramatic orchestrated piece designed to heighten the already insanely heightened circumstances.

The movie also has a young and very attractive Diane Lane. Nic Cage is also in the film as one of Rusty James' best friends. There is a small part for Tom Waits, because of course there is. Even if he wasn't cast I think he might have just manifested on the set to play that part. Dennis Hopper plays the boy's drunkard father. Chris Penn is in this. Lawrence Fishburne is in this. Sophia Coppola is in this as Lane's nerdy little sister.

I mentioned Diane Lane being attractive, but she may not be the sexiest person in the film. Mickey Rourke is at peak hotness in this film. He is clearly at his most James Dean-esqe point. He can't be bothered. It sounds like he is ad libbing a lot of his lines.

The movie is a internal struggle for meaning and placement and importance. It is about feeling trapped. Trapped in your location, trapped in your head, trapped in your circumstances, trapped in your heritage, trapped in your class, trapped in a cycle doomed to repeat previous mistakes. You want to break free, but every step you take only leads right back to where you are. It's about being a teenager.

It is funny that this film comes only one year after Coppola made The Outsiders, with deals with a lot of similar themes, but there he made the film more traditional, with his own brand of experimentalism. But here, he goes totally off the rails with the experiment, seeing how far he can push it. I like the ambition of this film better.