Mickey Rourke did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Motorcycle Boy in Rumble Fish.
Mickey Rourke plays that older brother who is only known as The Motorcycle Boy. The film's style goes past the visual style Coppola employs and can be seen reflected in the performances as well. Not every performance quite feels right, but Mickey Rourke, as he would later show in Sin City as well, seems to be a master of style. Rourke's whole performance seems to fit perfectly in with the surrounding imagery, and manages to even amplify it. Rourke whole physical being here seems to be that of almost a painting. He is seemingly one with the film in way almost no other of the performances are. Where some seem to partially struggle to find the realism or the style for their character, Rourke has a firm grasp of the challenge put forth by Coppola's direction, and is rather enthralling to watch from the moment he suddenly appears after a great deal of time building on the unseen character's seemingly legendary status.
From the way he is spoken about by others, by his brother, and of course his own moniker The Motorcycle Boy is almost a mythic character. Rourke's performance meets the demands of such a role by giving the character such a natural cool in every frame that he inhabits. Rourke speaks quietly, and often in a poetic fashion. That could come across as pretty annoying pretty quickly, but Rourke completely sells the idea of the Motorcycle Boy as almost a sage of sorts. Rourke just simply is the legend proclaimed he should be. With seemingly no effort Rourke carries this odd command in the role, and even a certain menace whenever The Motorcycle Boy suddenly appears to save his brother from various situations. Rourke holds the screen without question in these scenes and it is simply a marvel to watch him so artfully plays this part.
Mickey Rourke manages to go further than simply be the idealized man that the Motorcycle Boy's brother imagines him as though. Rourke is excellent, even while staying very much in his style, he suggests a very quiet underlying warmth in his scenes with Dillon, suggesting the love of the older brother quite effectively. Rourke's particularly good in the scenes where the Motorcycle Boy speaks about their mother, and has to interact with their alcoholic father (Dennis Hopper). Rourke technically does not say all that much in these scenes but there is such a poignancy he brings out of his performance. Rourke seems to suggest the memories of their mother simply in his expression in these moments, and is quite affecting in the way suggests how deeply felt the loss of his mother was. It's terrific work as Rourke manages to be so emotionally intense yet do it in such modest yet moving fashion.
Rourke's performance is the highlight of the film as it often loses some of its momentum whenever he is off screen. Whenever he is on screen Rourke absolutely enlivens it through his flawless ability to be so in tune with the stylization of the film. Rourke is able to be everything that is claimed about The Motorcycle Boy and is able to even earn having such a name for his character through his performance. Rourke takes the challenge of character and absolutely thrives with the idea. The Motorcycle Boy is sort of a personification of a James Dean sorta cool which Rourke achieves well never seeming like he is trying merely to copy James Dean. Rourke though never just let's this be a stylistic caricature alone, but does bring the needed depth and emotional honesty to the part as well. It's a striking work from Rourke, and easily the most memorable aspect of the Rumble Fish.