Rumble Fish was first released on DVD way back in 1998 in a rather bare bones edition, now we are given a nice Special Edition release. Before going any further I have something to admit: I have never seen this movie before. It is one of those movies that has been on the "to see" list, but never made it to my screen until now. I am glad I finally got to see it, it's a very good film.
Rusty James adores his brother, and wants nothing more than to live up to his reputation. He is the leader of a gang in a time when the gang life is on the downturn. They are a group of kids with nowhere to go. Rusty is in conflict with other local gangs, as well as trying to be a stand up guy for his girlfriend. His brother comes back to town and that doesn't exactly help as Rusty feels added pressure of having his brother there.
This film is, essentially, an art film for teens. It is shot in beautiful black and white, with the only color elements being the rumble fish. It has a fantastic score from Stewart Copeland, formerly of the Police. Everything is highly stylized, and nothing could truly be termed as realistic, but that adds to the appeal. The acting is over the top, everyone is moody and full of angst, and it all works. Sort of a different take on West Side Story.
Francis Ford Coppola directed the film, and with the Director of Photography, Stephen Burum, they have given it a wonderful look. The angles and use of shadow are inventive, interesting, and unlike anything they could have accomplished in color. Coppola was also the screenwriter, along with the book's author, S.E. Hinton. Together they have successfully given these characters life on the screen.
This DVD edition looks fantastic, the black is deep, detail is high. It is hard to believe that it was made over 20 years ago. In an age where color is king, it is nice to see a director who does such a great job with black and white.