Falling Down (1993)

Can’t stand up…

Never a better time to write than when you’re feeling that way out, is there? Well, guess what, that’s how you find me as you read this, so it seems more than appropriate to discuss a film that’s *all* about feeling that way out, namely Joel Schumacher‘s Falling Down (1993) starring Michael Douglas which, while some unkind souls may argue does not have much to compare with on the part of either director or actor, is still very much the best that either has produced the entire length of their careers to date.

Douglas is unemployed defence worker William ‘D-Fens’ Foster, and he is a nut from the moment we join him, sat in his car in a traffic jam on a blisteringly hot LA day. A buzzing fly is really starting to annoy him – so much so, he storms out of his car, leaving the vehicle unattended in traffic.

When asked just what the ‘hay-ull’ he thinks he’s doing by a motorist behind him, his reply is simple: “I’m going home.” Except that home is with his former wife, from whom he is divorced and beautiful young daughter, whom he loves very much, and all he wants to do is give her a present for her birthday. What could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, D-Fens feels the time has come to get his own back on the society that he feels has mistreated him, and he is not taking any prisoners…

This works so very well thanks not only to Douglas’s superb central performance and the tight, pulsating script by Ebbe Roe Smith, but also because of Robert Duvall’s turn as Detective Prendergast, a desk jocky cop who’s on his last day – he’s leaving his job because of pressure from his wife (Tuesday Weld), an ageing former beauty queen who doesn’t want to be home alone any more. Prendergast, you see, has also had more than his fair share of pain in life, but how he deals with it, namely with quite strength and dignity, forms the contrast that we need as viewers before we start seeing things too much from the point of view of the increasingly psychotic central character.

But, own up, we’ve all occasionally toyed with the idea, haven’t we, that it would simply be so much fun to try and bring society crashing down around our ears? Oh, is that just me then? Never mind, I’ll just go and bash a few random strangers’ heads in, and I’ll be fine.

In a nutshell (or case) – Douglas has never been more dangerous, but hard is the heart that will not be moved by his plight. A startlingly good film.

113 mins.

4 thoughts on “Falling Down (1993)”

  1. Bill Foster: What are you doing to the street?
    Construction worker: We’re fixing it! What the Hell does it look like?
    Bill Foster: Two days ago it was fine. Are you telling me the street fell apart in two days?
    Construction worker: Well, I guess so.
    Bill Foster: Pardon me, but that’s bullshit. You see, I don’t think anything’s wrong with the street! I think you’re just trying to justify your inflated budgets! I know how it works! If you don’t spend the projected amount this year, you don’t get the same amount next year! Now, I want you to admit, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THE STREET!
    Construction Worker: Hey, fuck you, pal.
    Bill Foster: Well, I’ll give you something to fix! (pulls RPG launcher out of kit bag)

    Brilliant! 🙂

  2. Nick: Give me your other hand.
    Bill Foster: I can’t.
    Nick: Why not?
    Bill Foster: Gravity.
    Nick: Gravity? What the fuck does that mean?
    Bill Foster: I’ll fall down.
    [Nick kick’s Bill’s knee, making him fall down]

    Thanks for the comment, Tom – it’s a great film, isn’t it? 🙂

  3. The hamburger joint scene is still one of my favourite moments in modern cinema. Just because, y’know, we all want that tasty, plump, meaty, crispy burger dripping sensuously with the morning dew as displayed on the menu, not some flaccid, lukewarm, greasy paper bag filled with salt and disappointment.

    Where is life imitating art when you need it?

  4. You’re too right, Col – and Foster’s question to the now raptly attentive diners: ‘What is wrong with this picture?’

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