Plot: What’s it about?
Rusty James (Matt Dillon) tries to live up to the reputation of his older brother, but filling those boots isn’t as simple as it sounds. He is the leader of a local gang in a poor industrial town, not the kind of turf most gangs would covet in the first place. When his brother The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke) was the leader, his power was well known and his rule was definitive. But he has been gone for months now, so Rusty has tried to step up, but things are different now. Rusty doesn’t just see his brother as his brother, he sees him as his hero and he wants to find his own place on that level. A “no rumble” treaty is in place thanks to his brother, but Rusty violates that pact and gets violent with a rival gang member. When The Motorcycle Boy returns, he has to teach his brother some lessons, as well as learn some himself.
The films of Francis Ford Coppola have, on the whole, garnered much acclaim, but not all of his work has been well received. In the case of Rumble Fish, the film was booed by the audience at its premiere and was treated to a host of blistering critical coverage. I think the backlash was due in part to how experimental the film in some ways, which I happen to like. We see so much of the same stuff in movies, it is good to see someone try a new approach, which is what we have here. The film is shot in black & white, in order for us to see the world as it is seen through a character’s eyes. This is a bold move and one that I think works well, since you have to walk in someone’s boots, so to speak, to understand their perspective. I don’t think Rumble Fish is a great movie, but it has great style and deserves a better reputation. Universal’s Special Edition should help more people find the film, but I still think a rental is the best option.
Video: How does it look?
Rumble Fish is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from some minor color moments, the movie is shown in black & white. The elements have been cleaned up for this new version, as this transfer puts the old one to shame. Ok, maybe it doesn’t put it to shame, but it looks better and for fans, even a slight improvement is reason to be pleased. The print shows no serious signs of degradation, so the image is smooth and clean. The contrast is stark and consistent throughout, with black levels that remain fluid and balanced. This is a great looking visual treatment, so kudos to Universal.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option is found here and it sounds good, with none of the usual remix worries to be concerned with. The surrounds add depth to the environment, especially in more active scenes, but also in the lower key sequences. This soundtrack isn’t about power, but when the material needs a boost, this track can more than provide that. But the sound is natural for the most part, so the audio rarely comes off as thin or forced, which is great news. Now the film does have some stylistic traits in terms of audio, so if you notice some quirks, rest assured, they are intentional. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A very candid and personal audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola starts us off, as he talks about how and why the movie was created. Coppola admits this is perhaps his favorite of his own films, because it was a personal project, one very close to his own heart. He spends a lot of time on the cast and the score also, so he covers a lot of ground in this session. One featurette focuses on the musical score, while another provides a look back at the production through cast and crew members. This disc also includes a music video, some deleted scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.