Want to see a film that will put you off living in Los Angeles for life? Look no further. As a kid I always saw the City of Angels as a glamorous, exotic place, since most movies back then were set there. But upon watching falling down at the age of 14 I went off it completely. I no longer saw it as a bustling metropolis of wealth and sunshine, but as a fragmented, angry, unjust place barely able to call itself a society.
Michael Douglas stars as William Foster, a middle-aged, middle-management schlub working at a defense company who suddenly finds himself obsolete in an increasingly chaotic, senseless world. Stuck in heavy traffic one morning, he suddenly snaps, leaves his car, and crosses LA on foot en route to his daughter's birthday party. Along the way he has many encounters with what sadly passes as modern humanity. Only now he's just not going to sit by and tolerate it. He's not choosing apathy like the rest of his fellow citizens. Foster (or D-FENS) fights back face to face, unapologetically, And you know what...he's right every time.
Robert Duvall plays Prendergast, the cop who puts together the pieces of D-Fens' rampage. The two men are as far apart as they are so close, but none of the LAPD care much for Prendergast's suspicions.
The lazy, arrogant, ignorant, disinterested cops are the only weak link in Ebbe Roe Smith's otherwise tight screenplay (you might remember him as 'Jim Bob' in Fletch Lives). Creating stupid characters to further the drama is just too easy, and every time one of them speaks it really drags the movie down.
Joel Schumacher's career has been filled with ups and downs (Batman and Robin certainly ain't one of the 'ups'), but Falling Down proves that he can be a good director when he wants to, regardless of how wildly inconsistent his track record is. James Newton Howard also contributes a nice score (which has never been released), but really this is Douglas' film. He's often funny without even meaning to be. D-Fens is just speaking his mind, but still his views come across as controversial or intolerant. If only more people had the courage to take a stand against injustice in real life instead of 'just dealing with it'.
Idiot cop characters aside, Falling Down is one of Douglas's best, and perhaps more relevant now than it was in 1993.
The Blu Ray is in 2.40:1 1080p with Dolby TrueHD stereo sound and is a MASSIVE step-up from the awful DVD. A commentary and interview with Douglas is also included.
This is a powerful film, but I personally don't look at it as some type of social commentary or condemnation of modern society, although it certainly touches on some of the problems that will always exist among human beings. Falling Down may well have a potent effect on anyone watching it, though. It always leaves me feeling really, really weird because it touches on so many things we all have to put up with each day, presents a monster whom I can't help but sympathize with in some degree, provides us with a hero whose own life is rife with undeserved problems, and runs its course atop a strong undercurrent of sadness. Michael Douglas gives one of his better performances as Bill Foster, an unremarkable man who finds his world torn apart and finally just snaps. He has lost his wife and little girl (which is his own fault); he's lost his job, the one thing that made him feel important; he just wants things to be like they used to be. He doesn't want to sit in traffic with no air conditioning or pay almost a dollar for a little can of soda or see plastic surgeons living the life of Riley while he can't even support his little girl. His journey "home" is an extraordinary one, and the kinds of awful people he encounters on the way do nothing to help his mentality. It's hard not to cheer him on when he manages to effect an escape from a couple of gangsters trying to rob him, but acts such as holding a burger joint up just because they refuse to serve him breakfast after lunch time is, obviously, way out there. No matter what terrible things he does, though, I can't get completely past the fact that he earnestly wants to see his little girl and give her a present for her birthday; in a clearly psychotic way, I find this movie somewhat touching, and that only makes the whole experience more depressing than it already is.
Robert Duvall is indeed quite good as the good cop, Prendergast, pursuing this vigilante on his last day before retirement. His life is no dream either, but of course he handles his own problems in a way quite unlike our man Foster does. His wife is clearly disturbed, made frighteningly burdensome and vulnerable by the death of their own little girl and an earlier wounding of her husband on the job. For her benefit, he took a desk job and is forced to put up with a lot of jokes and insults from his fellow cops, including his own boss. Except for his partner, all of the cops in this film are as unfeeling and cruel as some of the shady characters Foster meets up with during his journey home, and that is to me one of the more disturbing aspects of this film.
One of the things I liked most about Falling Down was its attempt to portray Foster as one very disturbed man and not a stand-in for any type of stereotypical vigilante; one character in particular makes this point quite clearly when, discovering that Foster doesn't actually agree with him in his own twisted, stereotypically extremist mindset, he asks the man just what kind of vigilante he is supposed to be. My own thinking is that Falling Down is not meant to be a warning about a group of potential Bill Fosters festering in the midst of society; instead, by showing us what happens to one man, it is warning us to walk carefully on our own journeys and to be careful to keep our tempers in check even when the world seems to be out to get us. At the same time, it doesn't imply that we should roll over and play dead whenever a problem comes our way, using the character of Prendergast to show us that we can and should stand up for ourselves but only in constructive ways. I really have a lot of conflicting emotions about this film, but the one thing I am sure of is that Falling Down is an unforgettable motion picture well worth seeing.
on 6 March 2011
This film is now almost twenty years old, and yet, it is now more relevant than ever. It is a brilliant film combining both an exciting thriller (with small amounts of action), blistering satire and social commentary, and laugh out loud funny moments. It is an intimate drama of one man's breakdown and the cop (on his last day before retirement) who has to find and deal with him, it is also epic with Los Angeles acting as the third major character. Perfect pacing and direction from Joel Schumacher, with special mention to James Newton Howard for a score which compliments the film wonderfully. Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall both brilliant actors, do this film justice, Michael Douglas is absolutely believable as the everyman worker, and Robert Duvall compliments Douglas' more showy performance with an understated one of the put-upon policeman.
This new blu-ray edition finally gives the film the best possible picture and sound (still only Dolby 2.0). The bright sunny shots of Los Angeles and the close-ups of the faces, all with far better detail than the original DVD as would be hoped. The sound is clear and precise (no real workout for the surround speakers), which for a film of this type is all that is necessary. Extras include a fantastic commentary from the director Joel Schumacher and the star Michael Douglas recorded separately, also included is an interview with Douglas which covers much the same ground as the commentary, and the trailer for the film which is nice for completists. Although not the most overwhelming of extras it is more than I could ever of hoped for on a film that tends to be overlooked, probably due to the subject matter.
Falling Down is one of my all-time favourite films. Great story, acting and dialogue. I think it can now be ranked as a classic, and definitely a must-see film.
This film follows the exploits of a man who sets out for work one morning to be trapped in traffic, its the hottest day of the year and he's at breaking point, he leaves his car and another man, a police officer who later plays the part of nemesis, helps move the car of the road. As the day progresses our protagonist is revealed to respond to everyday stress in a most explosive fashion, while on a personal mission to be reunited with his estranged ex-wife and daughter who are, with reason, terrified of him.
I rewatched this movie recently and it really made me think, it became popular upon its release because a lot of people could relate to the targets that the central character "De-Fense" (named for the number plate of his car) vents his frustrations on, rising prices in the corner shop, fast food, gangs, respect etc. All set against a back drop of a cliched tale of an old cop's final day on the job.
However watching it again I realised there's more to the movie, on one level it is a modern life is rubbish actioner and perhaps that's all some people will appreciate it as. On the other its a portrayal of how with the right trigger from the daily grind one sort of personality can quickly come apart at the seams, trapped by his own expectations of others which dont tally with reality. Many of the frustrations featured as triggers within the movie, unprovoked attacks, the cost of living, fast food are likely to be experienced by anyone but "De-Fense"'s stress coping skills are either over taxed or he simply didnt have any.
For a moment I considered how much "De-Fense"'s expectations resembled those of the contemporary American neo-conservative/capitalist zeitgeist and I do think the character is meant to be a stereotype of those who so heavily invest in automaton conformity that when times inevitably change they are left behind and feel betrayed.
In contrast to "De-Fense" there is the cop who's on the last day of the job, his life hasnt gone to plan either but he endures and does his best, he has experienced as thankless a working life and disappointing home life but deals with it all so differently. This character isnt trapped by any expectations of life and instead accepts it for what it is, he doesnt give way to temptation to cheat on his ill wife or to coast through on the final day of job avoiding any risks until home time.
The final confrontation/meeting of the two characters brilliantly portrays the difference, the cop stating that things do not have to play out with tragic consequences and "De-Fense" continuing to play the role he has found himself it, when he recognises he's "the bad guy" it can only finish in one way.
Michael Douglas is D-Fence, or Bill to everyone else, he's a guy trying to do his best and live his life without problems, but where ever he turns, so does trouble. He looses it big time when he looses his job at a defence company, and just flips; plus his wife doesn't want to see him again, and he just feels trapped.
I really enjoyed this film, and it's a pleasure to see it in such good quality. The TrueHD audio is brilliant and surpassed the standard DVD edition by miles. The video is splendid too, clear and blur free, which is nice to see. There's also a French dub, and for some odd reason a dub for Quebecans; which is strange as we speak the same language as the French Canadians.
The extras are not great, but good enough for me, with Michael talking candidly about the movie and how the filming went. It says it's a conversation, but really Michael's talking and we're listening.
The sheer tension built by this movie is great, and Schumacher is reflecting our culture and attitudes to people, and also our extravagant spending - like he did in Phone Booth, and Douglas really takes the roll well. Robert Duval as the cop following him is just pure genius and works well. I especially like the way the cast was so diverse, showing us a different side to LA and it's landscape.
Well worth watching this, it's a classic made better by the technology.
on 18 May 2005
Falling Down is perhaps the best Michael Douglas film I have seen in recent years and is certainly a more credible outing than some of his other offerings.
Falling Down tells the tale of a middle class white-collar worker who is slowly cracking up over his divorce and separation from his child and begins to take out his mental anguish on the everyday world he can no longer relate to. What starts as a day a being left hot and bothered in a traffic jam develops into a shooting spree as Douglas's character snaps and goes off the rails. On the other side of the coin we have Robert Duvall playing a grizzled old cop on his last day at work before retirement. It is Duvall who starts to piece together what is going on this fateful day as opposed to his scornful younger colleagues.
This, I guess, is the most interesting factor of the film, is that basically Douglas and Duvall play the same character. They are the forgotten men of America, middle aged, passed over and ignored at work, both rejected to an extent by their wives and both seeing the world they used to understand crumble around them. The fact is Duvall has the mental capacity to deal with the situation whereas Douglas does not.
The opening scene in which we see Douglas trapped in the traffic jam is extremely well presented and really sets the heat and frustration levels of the movie from the beginning. Other scenes in the film are equally as stunning and have almost become legend in film history. The scene in the Burger Bar is simply stunning and it is scenes like this where the viewer actually cheers for Douglas as he performs all the stunts we would like to in our own real worlds!
Having read other reviews of the film I note that some have accused the Douglas character of being racist, and the film in general has a racist flavour. Is this the story of the middle class white man taking out his frustrations on an ethnic minority "taking over his country"? To be honest when watching the film this never occurred to me, and even now I see the film as a rebellion against the everyday environment, whether that be race related or not. I didn't see Douglas's character treat the white citizens any differently throughout.
All in all, an excellent film that works on many levels. It's a tense and atmospheric thriller, a great exponent of classic almost black comic scenes and a talking point of modern life and the way we live it.
on 9 March 2011
Ever felt life was getting you down? that life itself was nothing but a problem?
well william foster (douglas) has this very problem and has decided to do something about it. william 'd-fens' foster has had enough he is trying to get home to see his wife and kid (his wife 'barbera hershey' hates him) and on his way home causes a trail of destruction in his wake. on his heels is just about to retire robbery cop Detective Prendergast (robert duvall) aided by his partner Detective Sandra Torrez (rachel ticotin)
the film is funny, serious and action packed, the situations douglas finds himself in with various people, we can all relate to, only his solutions are somewhat more radical for example- some guy has ago at douglas for spending to much time in a phone booth, rather than say sorry or curse at him, douglas draws an uzi 9mm out of a gym bag and shoots the booth to bits then telling the guy 'you know what i think its out of order' (he gets the gym bag off a gang after a failed drive-by on douglas)
all in all i loved this film, the way douglas deals with the various people in a way we would only dream of.
its about one man who has had enough, he is gonna fight back!
on 7 February 2011
I used to own this on VHS, so bought this recently as I remember it being a brilliant film, it's intense, intelligent, action packed, thought provoking and very well acted. I wouldn't want to go into too much detail about the film as I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone. You do end up feeling sorry for the main character, which is one of the clever things about this film. The build up of the difference characters is well done, especially Robert Duvall's character as he goes through the process of his final day being a cop.
Brilliant film. Will add details about the extras when I get a chance later this week.
on 29 January 2015
This is one of the best movies I have seen in quite a while. Michael Douglas stars as Bill Foster, a man who is pushed too far by the annoyances of everyday life, beginning a city wide rampage. Foster has a personal mission, to get to his ex-wife and reacts to life stresses in a very explosive manner.
Michael Douglas's performance in this film was brilliant and makes it memorable. The cop who is looking for Foster has his own personal problems as well, reacting to those problems in a very different way though. There are many humorous scenes as well, due to Douglas's acting. The movie does really well at showing how frustrated Foster is and that he has really had enough of everything. All the way through it is tense and sets the tone right at the beginning with a really gripping and well made opening. The film is excellent on many levels and the atmosphere is well captured, having a sense of fear throughout.
The final confrontation is very effective and clearly shows the difference in the two characters. The film makes you think about society and to keep tempers under control even if the world is "Falling Down."
on 16 July 2009
Though almost twenty years since Falling Down was filmed it still stands the test of time. The fatal intersection of two ordinary men's lives, each reacting to changes in their circumstances in such different ways remains compelling, and dramatically the piece still works. D-fens, the little man you has had enough, treks across Los Angeles to the sea, crossing a vast range of neighbourhoods he is ever less able to comprehend, while the cop comes both to terms with his life and to understand what the other guy is going through. The Blu-ray version is worth seeing, but I suspect any reasonable machine would provide almost as good an upscaled picture from the DVD. If you haven't seen this movie, it's well worth the effort. If you haven't seen it for years, then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well this movie works. Duvall and Douglas are excellent.