Matt Dillon stars in Rumble Fish as a young gang leader named Rusty James who can’t live up to his legendary brother’s reputation. Rusty James is a male bimbo that just can’t help but incriminate himself as an incompetent moron and impulsive fuck up. His brother, The Motorcycle Boy (played by a calm and collected Mickey Rourke) demands respect merely by making his presence known. Rusty James claims that he will one day be like Motorcycle Boy but fails to even come close to understanding his own brother in even the most general way. At best, Rusty James can only admire his brother and he knows this.
Rumble Fish follows in the footsteps of East of Eden, another film that takes a look at two brothers that don’t seem to share any of the same blood. But unlike East of Eden, both brothers featured in Rumble Fish are involved in crimes as for them it is the norm. This is not strange as years pass in the United States crime and gangs become more glamorous as result of America‘s leaders being subversive culture distorter's. The pairs of brothers in East of Eden and Rumble Fish also share something very importantly in common in that their mother has abandoned their family. Also in both films, each brother responded to this maternal disappearance in a completely different way thus resulting in opposing personalities. Rumble Fish is a fine update of “different brothers of the same mother (and broken father).”
Rumble Fish suffers from an annoying soundtrack of goofy sound effects that get in the way of the film’s important dialogue. The Police drummer Stewart Copeland had a new invention at that time called a “Musync” which never should have been invented. Thankfully, this little contraption hasn’t been utilized in films often. The unfortunate problem with “experiments” is they often result in unexpected failure. Stewart Copeland failed.
Rumble Fish features a variety of new (for that time) and old actors. One of my favorite performances, although limited in scenes, is by the legendary Dennis Hopper. Hopper plays the drunken and mentally unstable father of the brothers featured in Rumble Fish. Father Hopper realizes the great tragic quality that is Motorcycle Boy as he takes after his mother. Rusty James seems to take after no one and Daddy knows this. Rusty James is the black sheep of the family that only wants to fit in. His brother and father know it’s a lost cause. Rumble Fish is one of the more complex Hollywood “family affairs” that deserves viewing.