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In America’s mid-west in 1966, a bitter rivalry broils between teenage gangs: the “greasers” from the wrong side of the tracks and the “socs” from the right. Dallas (Matt Dillon), a hard-headed and rebellious punk, is the cocky leader of the greasers. His disciples Ponyboy Curtis (C.Thomas Howell) and Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio) are gentle by nature but after a run-in with the socs, in which one is fatally stabbed, Ponyboy and Johnny hide out in an abandoned church. Inevitably their delinquent past catches up with them and tragedy results. Greasers and socs seek to wreak revenge in an all-in “rumble.” 

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
After the heady days of The Godfather and personal trial by Apocalypse Now, Coppola’s career turned turkey when he followed the ill-conceived One From The Heart with this pretentious but pedestrian rites-of-passage drama, which boasts a glittering cast of male mannequins on the brink of golden (or at least gilded) careers. 

Faithfully adapted from S. E. Hinton’s best-selling novel, which is still recommended reading in American high-schools today, The Outsiders is a surprisingly simplistic tale of adolescent angst, which might have seemed profound on a plain black and white page, but fails to resonate when blown up out of all proportion on screens big and small. The influences are as diverse as Gone With The Wind and Rebel Without A Cause but the melodramatic climax (“you’re never gonna get me alive [coppers]”) is pure Duel In The Sun. Coppola arrests the attention with oodles of style, but his flashy images are at odds with a story that lacks substance and dialogue that is at best artificial and at worst diabolical when spilling from the mouths of handsome rookies all trying to out-hunk the next hunk. 

Matt Dillon was the only “name” player at the time, but fellow greasers, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and a tattooed Tom Cruise, soon would be, even if none steal the spotlight from Dillon, whose performance as the rebel without a pause is the most convincing. The phony and fragmented story is told from Howell’s perspective, but his narration is delivered in a dreary monotone that never inspires. Only Dillon, Howell and the doe-eyed Macchio, as the hapless Johnny, have roles of significance but Diane Lane, Oscar nominated this year for her blistering performance, in Unfaithful, is impressive as Cherry who sees some good in even the most wayward boys. Writing her first book at the age of 17, Sue Hinton (who cameos in the film as a nurse) used only her initials S.E., for fear that teenage boys would not accept her dubious insights into their growing pains if they knew they were being assessed by a female. But then, what self-respecting street punk from any era would allow himself to be seen reading Gone With The Wind, or be heard drooling over sunsets and quoting Robert Frost: “Nature’s first green is gold; her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaves a flower, but only so an hour…” 

This is a DVD that cries out for a retrospective from at least one of the budding stars, some of who were unimpressed by a decision by the young Cruise not to wash for the eight weeks of the shoot in order to get to grips with the grit of his bit part. The only bonus feature is the original trailer which falsely trumpets The Outsiders as a film that captures “all the intensity; all the excitement and all the emotions of youth.” It doesn’t, but surely the subtle sexual confusion could not have been an accident. No-one noticed at the time, but the parade of touchy-feely pretty boys, in tight blue jeans and open shirts, wrestling, rumbling and strutting, now seems more homo-erotic than hetero! 

Published May 15, 2003

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(US) - 1983

CAST: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16.9 anamorphic widescreen; Dolby 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cinema trailer


DVD RELEASE: April 23, 2003

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