Johnny Rourke Forever

Johnny Rourke Forever

It's been twenty-five years since Reckless was released on the big screen but my inner teenager (because you know that never really disappears) still has a crush on main character Johnny Rourke.

When I first watched Reckless years and years ago I was still in high school myself and wondered (as I'm sure lots of other teenage girls were wondering at the time) why my high school had no Johnny Rourke—a gorgeous guy with eyes as blue as a swimming pool who, though he's on the football team, sees through the utter fakeness of his high school stratosphere and the stifling constraints of the dead-end industrial northeastern town he lives in. Johnny Rourke doesn't seem to give a shit what anyone else thinks of him, wants more out of life than he knows he'll ever get by playing by the rules and is therefore ultimately willing to break them all to get it.

Reckless, 1984, Aidan Quinn & Daryl HannahI should also mention that Johnny (played by the ever-talented Aidan Quinn in his first film role) has a motorcycle, a leather motorcycle jacket (which he looks hold-your-breath good in), fantastic taste in music and a self-destructive bent which is obviously a result of being stuck where he is, with precious few options.

Johnny's low income family is headed by an alcoholic father and his mother's no longer in the picture. Johnny's future, if he can't get out of town, is a job at a steel mill like his father before him. If you're Johnny Rourke the way these facts close in on you turn you what others might term “reckless.”

Then there's rich, popular and pretty cheerleader Tracy (Daryl Hannah) who mostly plays by the rules but is curious about Johnny, who seems so different from everyone she knows. Johnny is curious back, which soon makes them “reckless” together. The tagline for this movie, as you can see on the poster, is “Girls like Tracy never tell their parents about guys like Rourke.”

Anyway, if like me you watched Reckless thinking about how pointless your own high school seemed and how mundane your small town (or in my case, suburban existence) but believed Bruce Springsteen when he sang, “There's something happening somewhere, baby I just know that there is” in Dancing in the Dark, you automatically had a lot of natural empathy for Johnny Rourke and—given his aforementioned motorcycle, cool jacket, taste in music and beautiful blue eyes—probably thought you should be his girlfriend . . . if he existed, that is.

I mean, just watch Johnny and Tracy dance to Never Say Never in this clip (dance sequence itself starts at about 2:10). At this point in the film Tracy and Johnny aren't together yet. She has a boyfriend who happens to be on the football team with Johnny and Johnny himself seems generally less than thrilled to be at the dance, but once the music starts he's instantly so intense that he belongs to this song. My teenage crush on him can be forever sustained by this dance scene alone.

But of course there's more! If I was trashing my school I would've stopped to turn up Kim Wilde's Kids in America too (awesome song)—Johnny Rourke rules!

Some of my favourite lines from Reckless might sound self-conscious to me if I were to hear them for the first time as an adult, but my Johnny Rourke crush is so firmly entrenched that I can also still hear them the way I did when I was a teenager—as intriguingly troubled.

Johnny: I like being scared. It keeps me awake.

Randy: Hey, whatever happened to you, Rourke? You used to be normal.
Johnny: I grew out of it.

In reality, my teenage self would probably have been too freaked out to skip town with Johnny Rourke—worried about what would become of us without high school diplomas etc. and not sure enough about him to risk removing myself from my safe but boring suburban existence. It would've been tremendously cool to dance to Romeo Void together, free rabbits from the science lab and sneak into the darkened school pool, but beyond that, I think I would've slammed on the breaks. So maybe I was never meant to be Johnny Rourke's girlfriend (if he existed) after all. There are people you're better off yearning for rather than having and so it is with me and Johnny.

But my teenage Johnny Rourke crush will likely stick with me for another twenty-five years and I still think it would've been cool to go to school with him, even if that meant just being the girl who empathized with him from a desk over while he talked about wanting to leave town and his fascination with a certain rich, pretty and popular cheerleader. And, well, if he'd wanted to save me a dance every now and then that would've been pretty damn cool too.

Reckless Trailer

* If you want to know more about the movie you can read the Reckless entry on The 80s Movies Rewind.

* The only existing DVD copies of this movie that I'm aware of can be ordered from the Warner Bros Shop. The notation on the site says, "This film has been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available and has not been remastered or restored specifically for this DVD and On Demand release."

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