Time: 91 mins.
Genre: Teen Drama
SYNOPSIS: When two poor greasers, Johnny and Ponyboy, are assaulted by a vicious gang of rich kids, Johnny kills one of the attackers in self-defense, setting off a turbulent chain of events that changes their lives forever.
BOTTOM LINE: This is the film that launched the careers of the Brat Pack, essentially giving Howell, Lowe, Swayze, Estevez, Cruise and Machhio their first major onscreen roles. Impressive casting, when one considers where many of them have ended up. It's their cohesive chemistry that brings the teen angst and social woes of S.E. Hinton's lyrical novel brilliantly to life. Coppola may have changed milieus from mafia warfare to street gang violence, but the song is the same as we follow these young men in their desperate struggle to find acceptance and love in a society that would rather see them dead than successful. Coming from the wrong side of the tracks, the Greasers fight a constant battle with the rich Socs, in an effort to protect what little they have.
An innocent trek to the park ends in a deadly encounter between the groups youngest members, Ponyboy (Howell) and Johnny (Macchio), and the leader of the Socs, played by impressively by Garrett. Their actions, which were in self-defense but won't play out that way in court, sends the boys on the run and the rest of the Greasers into the rumble of their lives. Before the incident Ponyboy was desperate to grow up, he quickly learns to be careful what one wishes for when life on the run, even with the protection of Dillon's streetwise Dallas, goes from bad to worse, leaving his best friend in a fight for his life.
Though the film is told from Ponyboy's point of view, this is a carefully constructed ensemble piece that gives every character their moment to shine. Macchio gives the film its heart with his portrayal of the emotionally wounded and eventually doomed Johnny. I'm sure it's this turn that got him his starring role in the KARATE KID. He breaks your heart. Dillon and Lane, the most experienced and well-known cast members, add their own special touches to the proceedings. His sense of social injustice sparks marvelously with her rich girl fatigue. Their attraction is palapable, probably more so because it must remain unexplored. With a less talented cast, this could have been a dismal melodrama. As it stands, THE OUTSIDERS is a somewhat dated, yet still intense tale about friendship, honor, family and the power of hope.