on June 30, 2004
As we journey with Michael Douglas in this excellent film, cant' we all identify with his frustration and anger? 85 cents for a can of soda? A store that won't give you change unless you buy something? Panhandlers looking for food, money and making you feel you owe it to them? People who think gays, blacks and other minorities are worthless? A fast food place that won't serve you breakfast even when they have tons of left overs they'll have to throw out? Wealthy old farts who think they own the golf course they pay membership in?
Yes, indeed, one can see why Douglas is so mad...it's just that his way of dealing with it is not one that we all should take.
Joel Schumacher's direction is right on, I think; people tend to like to pan Schumacher, when he has actually given us some vastly entertaining films. He knows what the audience wants and he knows that in FALLING DOWN, there can be no happy endings, so let's just enjoy Douglas getting revenge on people we'll never get a chance to!
Douglas is superb in the role, one of his best performances. Robert Duvall is very good in his role of the almost retired cop; Tuesday Weld is dazzling in her brief role as Duvall's wife; Rachel Ticotin does well in her role as Duvall's partner; John Diehl is very effective in his very brief role as the guy at the pool who offers to go with Douglas in order to protect his wife and child; and Barbara Hershey does wonders as Douglas' ex-wife.
Manipulative thought it may be, FALLING DOWN makes a statement, and makes one wonder what we would do if we snapped like Douglas!!!
Falling down is well known as being a film about just how ill tempered office workers can be when they have a very bad day. This is unfortunate because it is actually so much more interesting than the usual yarns, which typically feature someone who is not very likeable reacting badly to something that happens before most of the audience have taken their seats and becoming more eccentrically violent until he, she or it runs out of bullets and the director runs out of celluloid. Falling Down isn't like that at all, much.
It is, in fact, a thoughtful look at the way in which an ordinary person can be trapped in the course of a day by a chain of unfortunate and extreme circumstances into morphing into someone by tea time who he or she would not have recognized at breakfast. This is achieved through a progression of scenes that chip away at the stoicism of protagonist William 'D-Fens' Foster, played admirably by Michael Douglas, exposing and exploiting formerly unsuspected weakness and flaws in his character, and ultimately remaking him as someone completely alien to the person we met at the start of the film. The metamorphosis of Foster's character is so complete that fate forces a visual transformation from a buttoned-down, white collar suburbanite with a briefcase at the outset of the film to a wild-haired combat fatigue-wearing lunatic with a gym bag full of guns at the end.
The counterpoint to Foster's gradual crumbling is Detective Prendergast, played with inimitable style by Robert Duvall. Foster's day of dissolution coincides with Prendergast's last day on the job as a police detective. Facing retirement from a force in which he is a compassionate anachronism surrounded by a new generation of cops who are boisterously enthusiastic about living up to every movie cliché about the police, Prendergast has seen the light and is now at a stage when he is more than happy to go hang up his badge. Unluckily for him, he happens to be just the sort of character who is able to see beyond a superficially random sequence of events and come to understand the mind of a man who has patently gone off the rails, plotting his movement from crime scene to crime scene and ultimately bringing about a dramatic confrontation.
Falling Down could have been called Falling Apart, since that is arguably a better description of the real subject of the film (i.e. the disintegration of Foster's character). In fact, there is surprisingly little bloodshed and really only one actually done-on-purpose killing - two if you include the tragic concession to traditional Hollywood aesthetics at the end. Foster and Prendergast are two planets orbiting the same collapsing star, two men with diametrically opposing characters who, when viewed together, create the complete picture of the disintegration of a way of life. How well this picture is constructed through the unfolding of events makes Falling Down an exceptionally good film that really ought to provoke more thought.
on June 17, 2004
Here's the story of a simple man (played very well by Michael Douglas) who's life is crumbling around him. He's been layed-off for months now from the Defense Industry, a job he loved so much that he had his license plate personalized with the letters "D FENS". His marraige is over. He's been reduced to living with his mother, and is too ashamed to tell anyone that he's unemployed. He's been looking for work elsewhere but is "no longer economically viable", as you'll find out.
He snaps and leaves his car sitting in a traffic jam on one of L.A.'s freeways. In the next 8hrs he goes from being a transparent man to a heavily-armed, camoflage-wearing vigilante who deals a heavy hand to anyone who gets in his way. And in the streets of L.A., it's not hard to find someone who wants to get in your way.
Robert Duvall plays an L.A. Robbery Detective who just happens to be working his last day before retirement. He's chastised for having taken a desk job after a shooting incident, at the insistence of his wife (the only character in this movie I couldn't stand). And he realizes most of his fellow cops won't miss him for long when he retires. But, he's the only cop who links several violent crimes on that day to the vigilante defense worker. He further redeems himself by tracking down and stopping the vigilante. At the same time, he rescues his boys from his wife's purse and takes a stand for once in his life.
You'll find yourself cheering for the vigilante as he leaves death and destruction in his wake. And at the same time, you can't help but feel sorry for him because his life is falling apart, hence the film's appropriately-named title, "Falling Down". I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. 4+ stars.
If you liked this Joel Schumacher movie, I recommend one of his newest films, "Phone Booth".
on May 30, 2004
I reviewed this movie 5 years ago for VHS and had not visited LA at that time. 5 years and 2 visits hence, I felt the need to review this feature again for DVD. Michael Douglas(as Bill "D-FENS" Foster)is a man who paid his dues and bought into the American Dream in a place once considered the Promised Land- Los Angeles, CA. It's definitely not the LA of old, the magical place where the weather is warm and the skies are blue. It is not difficult to sympathize with Bill as he plugs on through a dirty urban wasteland with one thought in his bewildered mind...to see his daughter, his hope for the future. It is a lesson for us all to be a little more civilized and a little more empathetic to the ones who find it harder to adapt...Otherwise there will be more Bill Fosters...And far more lethal than he was.
Robert Duvall (as Officer Prendergast) is a man who but for the grace of a Higher Power could have ended up a casualty like Bill. He understands the life of quiet frustration that Bill has had to lead, yet he tries with all his might to adapt to the misfortune that is 1990s' Los Angeles. Prendergast realizes that he must NOT be seduced into the abyss of savagery that has subsumed Bill. FALLING DOWN is the classic story of a black-and-white moralist who cannot distinguish the various shades of gray that our world has become. In my opinion the most important message of this movie is how two men with very similar backgrounds deal with the challenges of urban life, whether in L.A., NYC or any other metropolis. THIS is what separates the "good guy" from the "bad guy" in modern society and asks YOU--the viewer--this question: Are you the problem or the solution?
on April 13, 2004
"Falling Down" is a sly combination of a social commentary, a conventional action movie, and a sad character study. It's an odd and sometimes unsettling mix - sometimes the horror of what we're watching is undermined by the catchphrase-laden dialogue of our anti-hero - but it's a compelling, reasonably gutsy movie that raises a lot of questions.
Michael Douglas, mostly known as D-FENS, has snapped. He leaves his car on a blistering day in LA and goes for a walk, only to face a series of annoyances that Larry David woulda loved - irritating convenience-store policies, fast-food fascism, gang-bangers, even a neo-nazi. Instead of cracking wise, however, D-FENS responds with violence and vandalism.
Meanwhile, back at the LAPD, Robert Duvall is a low-impact cop on his last day of the job. He's not well-liked, even though he seems to be a perfectly nice guy. He starts tracking these strange reports of a white nerd on a rampage, and ultimately gets involved with the case.
The movie seems designed to generate controversy, with its casual xenophobia and the sometimes pandering actions of the Michael Douglas character. Look deeper, though, and you'll note that Duvall's cop is basically a well-adjusted version of D-FENS. Both men feel utterly insignificant, only Duvall has learned how to laugh and get through life, while Douglas is bewildered and disillusioned - and deeply sad.
Things get even more confused when we learn Douglas has shown violence toward his family in the past, and may have a sinister goal in mind. This is probably unsettling to those who have been cheering him on, but who can blame them? Douglas is given pithy dialogue and exit lines for each of his encounters, as if we're supposed to applaud when he destroys, say, a Korean man's business. If Schumacher had downplayed the mayhem, or showed the violence as the actions of a desperate, sadly warped man (instead of a spokesman for the overlooked white man), the movie would have more power. But would anyone want to see it? The movie's ambivalence about the actions of D-FENS is fascinating and refreshingly non-judgmental.
"Falling Down" is just as haunting for its flaws as its virtues. If it's meant to be a commentary, it undercuts itself with its action sequences. As an action drama, however, it's pretty deep and fearless in presenting men of quiet desperation - and two different methods for conquering it.
on January 15, 2004
The first time I saw this film, I didn't like it... yet for some bizarre reason I felt compelled to come back to the theatre and watch it again... and again... and again...
The film is particularly interesting because it plays on a common human fantasy : The wimpish underdog suddenly becoming empowered and turning the tables on his enemies in a very Hollywoodish manner... Though many films may have unlikely superheroes, the film plays upon this fantasty to a most ridiculous extreme and the realism inherent in the plot (he's not a superhero in blue tights) is what makes the film so unique... I mean, its one thing to punch out some guy you don't like... but to gradually acquire an evergrowing and more powerful arsenol of weapons along the way and use them to confront every single menace of daily urban living ? - - Oddly enough, though no idealistic Billy Jack (see "The Born Losers") Douglas's cartoonish laid off white male pencil pusher turned madman vigilante easily strikes a chord in the viewer... Yes, the guy is obviously off his rocker... but you can't help chuckling at him as he confronts one social ***hole stereotype after another... You watch the film - - understand that he's obvoiusly the bad guy, yet can't help cheer him on as he confronts everyone from gangsters to cheeky fast food convenience store workers (one who looks amazingly like one of the Brady's) ... and of course a paranoid homophobic neo-nazi Army/Navy Surplus Store owner. - - One downside of the film however is that at times it seems to try so hard to make its point.... My favorite is the "poignant" shot of the American flags falling to the ground in slow motion as Douglas "turns back prices to 1955" and teaches the Korean store owner a lesson about living in "his" country ! - - and also the various "montage" type sequences the director uses to demonstrate urban angst with the eerie incidental music... or even the "not economically viable" viable guy sequence and the shots of Douglas's character sadly watching him as he's arrested and how suddenly (...oh so dramatically) as the cop car stops he turns to him and says, "Don't forget me !" (cue the violins !) - - but the biggest example of the director's possibly intentional use of "over-dramatization" has to be the about to retire cop on his last day of work meaning from the start of the film you wonder when he's gonna it, and the director milks this to the utmost in virtually every line of dialogue whenever Duvall's character appears. - -With all this said, in the end, FALLING DOWN wins back every point in being a great film about urban angst and frustration, even "white rage" (though you don't have to be white to associate with many of Douglas's frustrations) and a film that bears repeated watching... all in all, I would say that by any standard, be it a message, action or "exploitation" film, this is a highly watchable and re-watchable film, so you'd be at a miss not to own a copy of it !
on December 30, 2003
Falling Down is one of Douglas' greatest performances as a 40-year-old nerd who, on a hot day in the middle of traffic, starts to have a breakdown, trying to get to his young daughter's birthday party, even though he's divorced and his wife keeps telling him he can't come. Along the way, no matter how big or small the obstacles, (including un-fair fast-food restaurants, lazy construction workers, expensive convenience stores, a gang of punks, or fanatic military vets), he's determined to make it home, even if it means death. Duvall is the cop who is tired of the job and is retiring within the day, yet who quickly and voluntarily gets involved with tracking Douglas' rampage across Los Angeles. Douglas, although inspirational at first at how he makes a stand for himself among the many inconveniences of society, gets genuinely and convincingly creepy and loony as the movie progresses from big to enormous. Although what happens along his trip home is anything but funny, this movie has plenty of dark comedy for even the most shocked viewer. This movie is one of my favorites because of how Douglas reacts to the many stupid laws and regulations of society, some of which I agree, and if you're fed up with how places and people are acting these days, you're sure to love this movie too. A damn good time!
on December 4, 2003
The film starts off with Michael Douglas sitting in his car, caught in traffic while on his way to work. His hair is cut short, he wears thick black-rimmed glasses, nice black pants with a nice shirt and a tie to go along. He represents the average American businessman. As we see from the very opening, this man has been pushed over the edge by society. He believes that he is right, and everyone that argues with him is wrong.
After a few long minutes of sitting in completely stopped traffic, he becomes so frusterated that he gets out of his car in the middle of the freeway, and just walks off. This is how the day starts for D-Fens (License plate name) as he looses his mind, and encounters many people on his way. The initial thing about this film that surprised me was that it wasn't afraid of boundaries. Michael Douglas' character is bold, racist, violent, and profane...so there's a good chance that a handful of viewers would find this film to be highly offensive. I give this movie credit for pushing the envelope and not caring what anybody says.
The main thing that I liked about Falling Down was how much it struck a chord with me. I always look for films that are different and share some same ideas that I have. I also believe that society is corrupt, and this film shows it.
Along with the great acting, Falling Down is highly enjoyable and holds up on repeated viewings. The DVD is average, with good picture and sound quality, so I don't have any reason to complain. It seems that most viewers either love or hate this film, so see it for yourself so you can determine...which category do you fall into?
on September 14, 2003
Falling Down...a movie that I bought after hearing about the main character, Bill (his name is said maybe once or twice in the whole movie). Bill does everything I want to do. He holds up a resturant hostage (sort of) after being just a few minutes late to order a breakfast, smashes up a small store that charges too much for a can of Coke, stab and shoot a Nazi because he smashed his daughter's birthday present (that really made me mad, I don't like seeing kid's stuff broken), and much more.
The whole movie has a real weird vibe to it. Maybe because it takes place on a hot day, when Bill gets out of his car in the middle of this massive traffic jam, and goes home. After that, he goes on his own little quest to make it home for his daughter's birthday. The only problem is, a lot of people side track him, and that's when he stops dealing with it. Bill is awesome. I want to be his friend. I swear this movie is like a game. Every time he pays a "visit" to a place, he gets a new weapon. A baseball bat, butterfly knives, a gym bag full of guns, a rocket launcher, everything. Bill is the man as far as I'm concerned.
There's more to the movie than that, as it's about Bill and a cop who is on his last day before retirement. His part of the movie's ok, but Bill is where the action's at. In the end, the two meet, and it's a very sad ending for such a good movie. All Bill wants to do is go home, and all the cop wants to do is have a good last day and make it home ok.
The DVD has no real extras worth mentioning, but that doesn't matter, this is one of the best movies I've seen all year. Michael Douglas is now a king in my book.
on August 23, 2003
This will be a commentary on the "editorial review" of the movie for other Amazon users have already given good reviews of it.
It seemed to me like the pro. missed the first 10 minutes of the film, and missed what was happening around him in the early '90s.
As a former defense worker I can assure you that this is the only sympathetic movie out there for the tens of thousands of people who lost their jobs due to permanent downsizing. I was not one of them but I survived a 50% downsize, no morale booster in itself.
Michael Douglas has been in defense for 2+ decades.
He's laid off. Just like that. It's about how a def. worker comes out into the real Central/East/South LA at that time and is in disbelief that people treat each other the way they do.
In silence, he looks around at this place and I'm thinking he's wondering why he spent his life building weapons to save these people from being occupied by other countries. It has cost him his wife, custody of his child, and now he is "thanked" by being made redundant.
He'd just like to show up at his daughter's birthday party, against his wife's wishes. Yeah, as he runs into trouble along the way he gets more desparate and more isolated. The cop pursuing him played by Robert Duvall is also obsolete, which gives him insight into finding him.
I guess the editor, Marshall Fine, was living in his own world when he wrote his review of the movie.