A Movie A Week:

Article from Issue #025

"The Outsiders" Movie Review

4.0/5 Stars

[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]

The featured movie isn't really one that gets mentioned when coming of age movies are discussed but in a lot of ways, it's one of the best. It's not a comedy, doesn't take place over a single day, isn't set around high school drama, nor is it beloved by the generation on which the main characters are based. It's a broader scenario that every age and social class can relate to that's full of heart and character. It goes beyond the pains of growing up in various American neighborhoods and deals with the long standing issues of life and death.

The Outsiders poster art

At one point or another, everyone feels like one of The Outsiders. In this particular case in the 1960's, it's the Greasers, the poor boys with no parental guidance, leather jackets, and lots of Brylcreem in their hair. They've learned to stick together which makes them territorial and also known for loving a good fight. Their enemy, whether of choice or circumstance, are the Socs (short for "social"), the rich pretty boys from the other side of the tracks. Both classes know how far they can push the other before things get too dangerous and they regularly test their limits. This is a fact that the young Greaser Johnny (Ralph Macchio) knows too well from his recent beating that left both a physical and mental scar.

The story begins after this event with Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell), Johnny's friend, becoming the next convenient target for the Socs' harassment. They even get as far as drawing blood from Ponyboy's neck with a switchblade before the rest of the Greasers intervene. They're on edge with the escalating drama and matters are complicated when bad boy Dally (Matt Dillon) can't resist flirting with the Socs' girls even when getting caught. The drunken boyfriend, played by Leif Garrett, and his crew keep tabs on the younger Ponyboy and Johnny for the night and eventually catch them alone in a park. In their inebriated state and outnumbering the boys, the clash of the Socs and Greasers finally becomes lethal for at least one side.

Francis Ford Coppola has one of his strongest movies in The Outsiders. Of course with a story based on the popular novel by S. E. Hinton and a cast full of rising names from Patrick Swayze to Emilio Estevez to Tom Cruise, it was sure to be a hit movie. But Copolla really brings it together like only a master director could and I think he nails every ounce of it. For me, the real star is Ralph Macchio's character Johnny rather than the implied Ponyboy. The scene from the screenshot above, combined with the soundtrack, sent this one into classic territory for me even though we cut away from the fight and return only for the aftermath. That's the sign of great filmmaking, when such a pivotal scene isn't shown yet still makes a bigger impact than if it had been.

There are just too many things I enjoy about this movie. The characters are fleshed out and given the proper personalities for the size of their roles. They're then bestowed believable life by the finest young actors available. A 50's and 60's soundtrack was nearly required and the placement of certain somber Elvis tunes took it the extra mile back in time. At it's core, it's a timeless story of dueling societies set in a period that is defined by it's culture. That's why I give The Outsiders:

4.0/5 Stars

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What movie would you like to see John review next week? Your suggestions are always welcome at: john@cineweekly.com

- John Holliday -
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