Customer Reviews: Rumble Fish (Special Edition)
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on April 6, 2005
There was a time, before and after the "Godfather" Parts I and II, when Francis Ford Coppola was a highly experimental filmmaker who could approach subjects on a smaller, subtler scale that would loom soulfully large in close-up. "Rumblefish", like "The Conversation", is a very good example. It's the story essentially of Rusty James, a 16-year-old living in a tenement in Oklahoma. Despite his youth, he has the vices of a much older man--drinking, smoking, fighting, and womanizing without any interference from what few adults remain in his life. His father is a lawyer, living on welfare, an alcoholic. His mother left when he was too young to remember. And he has only the memory of a legendary brother to give him guidance. Unfortunately Rusty hasn't the reputed intelligence of his mother or father or older brother, and so misunderstands the aura surrounding the legend and the stuff of which it was built. Rusty thinks the great accomplishment of his brother, otherwise known as the "motorcycle boy", was his presiding over a gang at a time when the gangs ran the streets. And he wants desperately to follow in that path. But little by little, his friends, his father, and the returning "motorcycle boy" himself show Rusty that he hasn't the intellect to lead the gang or the soul to be his brother. The "motorcycle boy" is regarded on the streets as royalty in exile. His father sees him as a great miscast figure in a play: as someone able to do anything, but unable to find anything he wants to do. And, in a final dispiriting mission, the "motorcycle boy" tells Rusty that he's wasted his time waiting for his return. He's no one's hero; no one's answer; no one's leader. If you're going to lead a people, you have to have somewhere to go. And it is perhaps at this point that we realize we're not so much watching the story of Rusty James as we are the world of the "motorcycle boy". We're really looking at the world through his eyes and ears, through the eyes and ears of a man who is colorblind and mildly deaf. We're looking at a world shot in black and white, where figures are back-lit to look gunmetal gray against flat backdrops, and move like white clouds racing across the gray sky in sequences shot through time-lapse photography. Shadows appear as thick as the things they skirt, some of which Copola actually had painted on the walls in a kind of distorted monochrome that is reminiscent of early German Expressionist cinema. Angles are drawn sharp and askew, and background action is framed in deep focus--through, beyond, or around a profile, an arm or a broken figure. And all noises--great and small--pull forward, thwarting any sense of conventional distance, time or relative scale of values. We hear water dripping, billiard balls clacking, machinery turning, delivered in the thick half-echo of a blues harp, having no greater or lesser value than the dialogue it serves to syncopate. The sense is very strong that we are seeing and hearing things as the "motorcycle boy" sees and hears them: through a broken but acute sense of perception, as the father in a rare moment of lucidity calls it. There is always a sense that we are seeing and hearing the guts of the city, the innards of the compacted humanity, and all the mitigated impulses that surrender to drink and drugs and sex and violence for want of some bigger, wider, unprecious circumstance, such as the "motorcycle boy" suspects would prevent the Rumblefish, his term for Japanese fighting fish, from killing one another.
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on June 28, 2004
Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish was booed by its audience when it debuted at the New York Film Festival and in turn was viciously crucified by North American critics upon general release. They resisted the allure of such a dreamy, atmospheric film that works on so many levels. It is also Coppola's most personal and experimental project--on par with the likes of Apocalypse Now. Rumble Fish curiously remains one of Coppola's often overlooked films. This may be due to the fact that it refuses to conform to mainstream tastes and stubbornly challenges the Hollywood system with its moody black and white cinematography and non-narrative approach.
Rumble Fish curiously remains one of Coppola's often overlooked films. It refuses to conform to mainstream tastes and stubbornly challenges the Hollywood system with its moody black and white cinematography and non-narrative approach.
It was a movie clearly ahead of its time: a stylish masterpiece that is obsessed with the notion of time, loyalty, and family. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Coppola's film is that it presents a world that refers to the past, present, and future while remaining timeless in nature.
Right from the first image, Rumble Fish is a film that exudes style and ambience. It opens on a beautiful shot of wispy clouds rushing overhead, captured via time lapse photography to the experimental, percussive soundtrack that envelopes the whole film. This creates the feeling of not only time running out, but also a sense of timelessness.
As always, Coppola assembled an impressive ensemble cast for his film. From The Outsiders, he kept Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Glenn Withrow, William Smith and Tom Waits, while casting actors like Mickey Rourke and Vincent Spano, who were overlooked for roles in the film for one reason or another. They all fill out their roles admirably, but Mickey Rourke in particular is mesmerizing as the Motorcycle Boy. He portrays the character as a calm, low key figure that seems to be constantly distracted as if he is in another world or reality.
Every scene is filled with dreamy imagery that never gets too abstract but, instead, draws the viewer into this strange world. Coppola uses colour to emphasize certain images, like the Siamese fighting fish in the pet store--some of the only colour in the film--to create additional layers in this complex, detailed world.
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on February 23, 2001
What makes a five star film? How about a cast starring Matt Dillon, Mikey Rourke, Dennis Hopper (and a cameo appearance by Tom Waits!), a soundtrack by Stewart Copeland (with a bit of Stan Rigeway!), a story by S.E. Hinton, and directed by Fracis Ford Coppola. This film is magic. It is modern impressionism shot in a timeless realm- a blackboard sky. Its more than rouge street kid getting into rumbles, its a story of fish that need to be set free, so they can swim to the ocean where there are no dividing lines. When this movie first came out in the early eighties, it got negative reviews and a cold public welcoming. As you can see here -an almost five star consensus- it was very ahead of its time. This movie probably hit the establishment like a bomb, which at the time was very conservative. All that aside, this is an extraordinary film- a true art piece of the silver screen- livid, bullish, and moving.
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on September 6, 2005
The new Special Edition of Francis Ford Coppola's "RUMBLE FISH" is superb! It is awesome even!

SYNOPSIS: Academy Award winner Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather" trilogy) directs this unforgettable story of a young man's struggle to live up to his adored brother's reputation in an impoverished industrial town. Matt Dillon (Wild Things, Crash) and Mickey Rourke (Angel Heart, Sin City) are Rusty James and The Motorcycle Boy, and lead an all-star cast including Nicolas Cage (Con Air, Face Off), Dennis Hopper (Speed, Blue Velvet) and Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Under the Tuscan Sun). This extraordinary adaptation of the best-seller by S.E. Hinton features a Golden Globe-winning score by Stewart Copeland of The Police, and reminds us that if you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go. "Rumble Fish" is a gorgeous shot and realised movie that has attained a lasting cult following. You will either love it or loathe it as it is undoubtedly a movie that polarises audiences. If you want something different and interesting then "Rumble Fish" might just be the movie for you!

PICTURE: The remastered anamorphic picture quality is stunning! It is so detailed and 3 dimensional! The cinematography literally comes alive and you feel you could walk through the screen and be in the movie. On my 55 inch DLP screen this DVD is one of the best looking transfers of an 80's film I have seen and it blows the old DVD releases' picture out of the water. A huge improvement and an allround great picture of a stunning looking film!

SOUND: The sound quality is also superb. The film has obviously had a lot of care taken over it and this all new Dolby Digital 5.1 sound transfer is first rate. Every sound seems to be coming from all around you while the dialogue is crystal clear and nicely anchored to the centre. The surrounds are consistently in use for both effects and the films weird and wonderful score. Again a huge improvement over the original DVD.

MENUS: The DVD menu's are classy and are perfect for the film. They are not highly animated but they scroll through the films all-star cast so everyone gets a look in - DILLON, ROURKE, LANE, CAGE etc etc. I like DIANE LANE in her bikini best on the "Special Features" menu!

EXTRA FEATURES: We have a tremendous running commentary by director FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA. This is amongst his best commentaries and is maybe even better than his "Godfather" commentaries. He obviously loves "RUMBLE FISH" and is very passionate about it. Everything is covered including funny anecdotes, getting the cool cast together, the cinematography choices and the story itself. A great commentary by someone who knows how to do them right!

We next have a wonderful "Making of..." documentary which runs about 30 minutes. It is very insightful and has vintage behind the scenes clips and interviews with Cage, Dillon, Rourke, Fishburne and Diane Lane. There is also producer and crew input. A very good documentary of this type. Well put together and informative!

We than have an excellent "Percussion Score Featurette" which is presented in anamorphic video. This includes very interesting interviews with the films mixing engineer and Stewart Copeland of the Police. He talks about working with Coppola and they revisit the original tapes to show how the films weird and wonderful soundtrack was created. Excellent featurette on an unsung part of film production.

The "Deleted Scenes" are frustrating. There are six in total and they run a fair while as whole chunks of footage was deleted. (Especially the character of Steve). The deleted scenes are all uniformly excellent scenes that would not be out of place in the finished film. The scenes are very well acted and well produced but you are left wishing that they had used "seamless branching" to give you the option of putting them back in. Sadly the quality is not as great as the film itself, and they are presented non-anamorphic and with a time code at the bottom. Worth seeing though.

We then have a good quality trailer (the same as the original DVD), some DVD credits and the Stan Ridgway "Don't Box Me In" video presented fullframe and with excellent picture quality and sound quality. The cover is similar to the last DVD but makes a bigger thing of the films all star cast.

All in all, this is an excellent Special Edition of a strange and beautiful film that you will either love or hate. It is a HUGE improvement over the old release in everyway possible and the picture, sound and supplements are superb! Highly recommended for fans of the film, cast or Coppola!
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on October 11, 2005
I've always felt that this was a very underrated movie. Very innovative for it's time. Besides that, this dvd is worth buying almost exclusively for Francis Ford's Commentary. That made the Godfather DVD's worth buying and this is no different. his commentary gives you an insider's look at a genius film maker at work. Plus his warmth as a human being as always comes through very strong. Can watch it over and over.
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on September 14, 2005
Rumblefish is a fantastic film and for more than the reasons stated repeatedly in these reviews. Coppola has done nothing less than present the audience with an allegorical tale of the Second Coming. Watch the film again and keep this in mind when you do.

-Scenes of "time" and "timelessness"

Fitting for a story that should have both of these elements

-Rusty James is the "true beleiver"

-Steve is the "chronicaler"

-The Cop is the "adversary"

Other characters in the film represent different aspects of the First Coming updated for the second.

-The Motorcycle Boy has been away and "returned"

When he was "here" he brought a message of peace,united the gangs

and stopped the fighting.

-The Motorcycle Boy went all the way to the "ocean" where his mother is and came back. (Consider the symbolism in the context of the Second Coming)

-The Motorcycle Boy is compared to Royalty (King of Kings?)

-Spray painted on a wall is the phrase " The MOtORCYCLE BOY REIGNS"

All letters are in Caps except for the small "t" which in the film represents a familiar object.

There are many, many more uses of symbolism throughout the film, some more abstact than others (Think about what a motorcycle looks like from above). There are also pieces of dialogue which continue/enhance the symbolic thread.

I encourage anyone who loves this film as much as I do to take another look at it from this perspective and see what else you may find. As in any other great work of art, this film works on many levels, from a simple story to an awe-inspiring work of cinematic symbolism. It's all there.

I'll leave you with (1) more:

The confrontation between the Motorcycle Boy and The Cop in front of a giant clock with no hands. A barely abstract symbol for timelessness. Beautiful.


The "Rumblefish" represent man, and the water represents salvation. The river will eventually reach the ocean. (symbolically speaking)


I am not affiliated with any Christian organization nor do I claim any other religion to be truer than another.

I just like great films.
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on May 20, 2003
When megalomaniac Coppola tries his hand to experimental cinema, this is the result: a masterpiece. After the big failure of "One from the Heart", the director of "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now" who's already won everything (two Golden Palms and the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, the only one so far), takes one after the other on the screen two very short novels ("The Outsiders" and "Rumble Fish") published by Susan Edward Hinton in the early sixties, when she wasn't even 18. With this "Rumble Fish", he produces a sort of "Rebel without a Cause" for the eighties as well as an ode to individual freedom, valid for animals (fishes, birds...) as well as for humans. An individual freedom who doesn't find limits in cages and aquariums and other places acting as prisons.
This movie is to be hailed for Coppola's great direction, for the magnificent photo in black and white - with a few symbolic appearances of color - and for the first important appearance of a genius newcoming young actor: Mickey Rourke. Besides the black and white photo is for his color-blind character, who can't hardly see the colors. After some cameos in "Heaven's Gate", "Body Heat" and "Diner", he plays the Motorcycle Boy, an ex-gang leader who became a legendary figure, coming back in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after two months away, and tries to put his little brother, Rusty James (Matt Dillon, in his greatest role), now a gang leader in his turn, back on the right track. But, at the age of only 21, he's already a worn, tired young man, with his shape haunting the streets. With this role, Rourke starts a series of losing characters which will end up by sealing his reputation and making him undesirable to producers. Whatever, Rourke is already a cult actor. The way the Motorcycle Boy ends, shot by an angry cop with him having no weapon, may be compared with Billy the Kid's. Rusty James will finally take his place, rolling away on a motorcycle to the sea, symbol of individual freedom (see the birds flying around with no interference). This is the main, universal message of this film. Around Dillon and Rourke, a great supporting cast including musician Tom Waits (a regular in Coppola's world) as a rambling bartender, Dennis Hopper and his acute perception, Nicolas Cage (Coppola's nephew), beautiful Diane Lane, Larry Fishburne, Christopher Penn (Sean's little brother) and the too rare, dark-haired Vincent Spano, who in this film is hardly recognizable with his blond hair and glasses. S.E. Hinton herself makes a short appearance as a street girl. We'll notice that the great, haunting soundtrack was composed by Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the Police band.
"Rumble Fish" is certainly the best film ever made about juvenile distress. We're far away from teenage film produced today, where the young characters are usually described as brainless, totally uninteresting people thinking about nothing else but having sex. Very underrated in Coppola's career and insufficiently reviewed, this is a great film, maybe Coppola's best one. The penultimate take, a long right travelling - from the Motorcycle Boy's dead body to the sign 'The Motorcycle Boy reigns' -, is astounding. Even if the cover doesn't respect the black and white photo of the film, this DVD edition is to be bought right away (at least for Mickey Rourke's voice) and kept for ever.
One last remark about Lorelei's discussable review: first, yes, the dialog is maybe vulgar but it's not shocking because it's the one we use every day, in life as well as in films; second point, mister Hinton is a woman.
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on February 5, 2001
Rumble Fish is probably my favourite film, but it is not easy to explain why. Possibly it is because so much talent is brought together in one place and produces a strange masterpiece, which is not really lacking in any aspect.
The soundtrack, by Stewart Copeland, is a wonderful backdrop to the arresting visuals. I bought the soundtrack CD, because even in isolation, it is great music.
The film is beautifully shot entirely in black and white, with the exception of the Rumble (Siamese Fighting) Fish, of the title, who are a metaphor for Rusty James (Matt Dillon) and his brawl-prone friends. The monochrome photography is supposed to mirror the colour blindness of The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke).
The fish - and ergo the boys - will fight their own reflections, if there's nothing else to fight. For Rusty James and friends, fighting is an outlet for the frustrations of their doomed existence, born on the wrong side of the tracks, with few prospects. Rusty James yearns for a time when there were gangs, led by his brother The Motorcycle Boy. He wants more than anything to be like his brother, but can never manage it. He lacks his brother's wit and intelligence and is too stupid to understand that this is why he will never be like The Motorcycle Boy who, for his part, now regards the "rumbles" as childish.
The performances of Dillon, Rourke, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane etc - are excellent. For me, though, Dennis Hopper, as the boys' alcoholic father, is startlingly good, drawing real emotion from the pathos of his character's life. The intensity of his little bar-room speech about Rusty James' absent mother sends shivers up and down my spine.
Coppola must be credited for a unique and profound interpretation of SE Hinton's short novel. He uses every trick in the book, of course, and loads the film with symbolism and mood. For this, the film has been accused of pretentiousness and there is some justification for this, because it is not evident who it is aimed at. The book was teenage fiction, but the film is 18-rated. Much of the subtlety might be lost on the likely audience of a film which is ostensibly about youth gangs. However, if you can get past that, Rumble Fish remains a superb film and something you can watch repeatedly and always find rewarding.
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on April 27, 2000
RUMBLE FISH is a real pearl. The kind of movie you are proud to have in your DVD collection and to present to your friends.
Just think of this : Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits reunited in one film ! And at the best moment of their mutual career, when they still were unknown actors (OK ! skip Dennis Hopper ) trying to conquer Hollywood.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, ruined by the economic disaster of ONE FROM THE HEART and the fall of Zoetrope studios, RUMBLE FISH is an artistic achievement. Filmed in black and white and haunted by an apocalyptical musical score of Stewart Copeland , it describes three days of Matt Dillon's life , three days to become a man.
Three days to get rid of his brother, of his father and of the ideal world he created in order to survive.
The whole cast is superb with a special mention to Mickey Rourke who could have become a new Marlon Brando if...
A DVD to discover and to cherish.
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on April 7, 2002
This timeless Coppola MASTERPIECE is light years ahead of any film ever made about the madness of genius and the human condition. Philosophically speaking, this film has more insight into human frailties and conventions and than any movie ever produced in our time. I consider this to be Coppola's companion piece to APOCALYPSE NOW. And just as brilliant. While the prosaic cast of characters in this story stumble around in their mundane school yard of girlfriends and gang fights, The Motorcycle Boy, played by Mickey Rourke, is an illuminated human trapped in a black and white movie from which there's no escape. No one can tell what The Motorcycle Boy is thinking as he walks through samsara in his mortified skin. Ultimately alone. Most people sleepwalk through their ordinary reality and their trivial problems. For the ineffable few the world is on fire. Some commit suicide.
Most critics called RUMBLE FISH pretentious and overblow. It is replete with symbolism which may or may not be de rigueur. I find it to be one of the great philosophical statements of our time.
Mickey Rourke is phenomenal!!!(I have the lobby cards for this film hanging in my living room.)
Francis Ford Coppola is a GENIUS!!!
WARNING. This film is not for those looking for a gang fight movie.
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