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Rumble Fish Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 60

    out of 100


    Rumble Fish is another Francis Coppola picture that's overwrought and overthought with camera and characters that never quite come together in anything beyond consistently interesting.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    The New York Times Janet Maslin

    The stunning black-and-white cinematography in Francis Coppola's Rumble Fish functions rather like a cold compress, subduing a film that is otherwise all feverish extremes.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    Time Richard Corliss

    Rumble Fish is the messiest, most provocative inkblot of the year.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    I thought Rumble Fish was offbeat, daring, and utterly original.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Teen-gang saga is more intense, violent than the book.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the raw moments include a sex-party scene exhibiting female and male nudity (erotic-daydream fantasies about a pretty girl wearing very little in a classroom are slightly less explicit). There's also gang-fighting (arranged like a duel, with all the kids turning out to watch at the appointed time), a mugging and beating with a tire iron, and reckless driving on a motorcycle (no helmets), plus one fatal shooting. There is much drinking/drunkenness and cigarette smoking as well, and heroin use and addiction is discussed (and disparaged). Swearing at R-level emphasizes the f-word, and the lead character speaks glowingly of the street-gang lifestyle, though other characters work to change his mind.

  • Families can talk about the messages in the film and the choices the characters make. Why did Motorcycle Boy come back from California to his dangerous, no-future hometown situation?
  • Do you know any Motorcycle Boy-types? Can you relate to the people and situations here or not? What other movies and books speak to this type of character?
  • Many teens have read the book. Ask what they think of director Coppola's offbeat approach to the story, and if they would like to see more serious-minded films like this that take wild chances with B&W photography and hallucinatory imagery.

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Rusty James' hero-worship of his brother Motorcycle Boy is misplaced, and he has to shake off his ideals of street-fighter heroics. There's the question of whether Motorcycle Boy is truly brilliant or just a mentally ill misfit. There's also a suggestion that a broken home (the mother's desertion) has ruined forever both the left-behind husband and the son old enough to comprehend what was happening. A sub-theme: the urban environment breeds gangs and violence, and people in cities are compared to animals in cages, though the only solution -- get outta there! -- is a bit simplistic. (And, for Motorcycle Boy, too little too late.)

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Rusty James is a trouble-prone, at-risk kid, school dropout, and unfaithful boyfriend, but by the end he realizes some of the negatives of his acts and outlook. He has a more timid sidekick, Steve, who follows Rusty James into bad situations but doesn't initiate them. Characters idolize Motorcycle Boy for his supposed intellect as well as his "coolness" and fighting style, though even he thinks they've got it all wrong. He sacrifices himself to show his brother not to follow his path. Most grownups - - a grouchy principal, a broken and alcoholic father, a vengeful cop -- are not very positive. Gangs here are mostly white, with a few black characters (friendly and unfriendly) on the margins.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Brutal beatings and kickings, a stabbing, and an (offscreen) fatal shooting. A motorcycle runs down a child.

  • sex false4

    Sex: Topless girls in panties, bare male buttocks in an orgiastic party. Rusty James has an ongoing sexual relationship with girlfriend Patty, though we just see close cuddling. In a series of daydream fantasies he imagines her in skimpy lingerie draped all over his school classrooms.

  • language false3

    Language: The f-word, the s-word, "asshole," "hell," and "bitch."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Extensive underage and adult liquor drinking and cigarette smoking. Rusty's father is an alcoholic. A marauding character is said to be on pills. Talk of heroin use, in a negative context -- that it ruined the "fun" of being of being in a gang, among other things -- and a supporting character is described as miserable junkie.