21 February 2002 | Autonome
A box of nowhere to go....
I have to admit having a soft spot for this film as I have for Apocalypse Now, though perhaps Coppola could never quite carry out a truly inventive directing style. His films mostly seemed somehow constrained to an unchallenging format, and avoided the complexity, surrealism or depth so often used to great ends by film directors. Coppola's films will always seem to this author to be part of that distinct class of "Hollywood Films", though some are arguably "really good" Hollywood films.
As often the case with good films, Rumble Fish featured a fantastic collaboration of other great artists. This talent comes together to create something memorable on film which communicates, as few films have, a certain mood or feeling that is perhaps peculiar to the American midwest, especially during the 1980's. Something about the antipathy of growing up in such a vast, apathetic, culturally blank, comfortably mediocre place and attempting to go beyond it or find something in it, like punching your way out of a cardboard box only to find that things seem just as dark and empty on the outside. It should be made clear that this author also comes from that midwest and identifies with this theme, so there is some bias in this review, but this may apply to other "midwestern refugees" as well.
Fans of S.E. Hinton, on who's book the film was based and who co-wrote the screenplay, will appreciate the film, as well as fans of Tom Waits, Stuart Copeland (of the Police and little known project Klark Kent- which closely resembles the soundtrack), Mickey Rourke, or any of the (then) young, up and coming actors like Matt Dillon, Nicolas Cage and Diane Lane.
Rourke is at one of the peaks of his young career here, a cool rebel without a cause type, vaguely reminiscent of young Peter Fonda or James Dean- a striking character. The film has memorable scenes and lines, one of which is Dillon's character saying to the fatalistic older brother- "Motorcycle Boy" played by Rourke, something like- "People would really follow you anywhere, why don't we do something?", to which Rourke responds- "Yeah, they'd probably follow me right down to the river...and jump in."
Similar scenes and numerous references to time passing away seemed to summarize the hopeless stagnation of growing up nowhere and proceeding to go nowhere. Groping in the dark for everything or anything meaningful in the context of a forgotten, lifeless irontown where even the young seem more like ghosts trying desperately to become tangible in some sense, and the middle aged are already on some other world.
Other films that come to mind- James Dean films; "Reckless", another Hollywood film released a year later, with Aidan Quinn (as "Rourke"- coincidence?), and Daryl Hannah, was semi-successful in making the occasional reference to a similar blighted steeltown theme, though overall it was spotty; "Dogs in Space" with Michael Hutchence of INXS was a punk classic, and had some of that "nowhere with style" appeal with an Australian twist; two other 1980's films the author never saw- "Down by Law" and "Rivers Edge" probably fit somewhere in here as well.