Saturday, September 5, 2015
FALLING DOWN (1993)
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: Ebbe Roe Smith
Cinematography By: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Editor: Paul Hirsch
Cast: Michael Douglas, Barbara Hershey, Robert Duvall, Tuesday Weld, Rachel Ticotin, Frederic Forrest, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Raymond J. Barry, D.W. Moffett, Dede Pfeiffer, Lois Smith, Karina Arroyave, Steve Park
On the day of his daughter's birthday, William "D-Fens" Foster is trying to get home of his estranged ex-wife to see her daughter. He has a breakdown and leaves his car in a traffic jam in Los Angeles and decides to walk. Then he goes to a convenience store and tries to get some changes for a phone call but the Korean owner does not change his money. The unstable William breaks apart the shop with a baseball bat and goes to an isolated place to drink a coke. Two gangsters threaten him and he reacts hitting them with the bat. William continues walking and stops at a phone booth. The gangsters hunt him down with their gang and shoot him but crash their car. William goes nuts and takes their gym bag with weapons proceeding in his journey of rage against injustice. Meanwhile Sergeant Martin Prendergast that is working on his last day before retirement is following the wave of crimes and believes that the responsible is the same man but the other detectives do not pay attention to him.
Every studio in Hollywood turned down Ebbe Roe Smith's script. Producer Arnold Kopelson was getting to the stage of considering cable TV when Michael Douglas came across the script and pronounced it one of the best he'd ever read. The opening sequence of the film, in which Michael Douglas is stuck in traffic, is a direct homage to Federico Fellini's famous opening to "8 1/2".
I remember seeing this film in theaters with my dad and loving it. It seemed like a revenge film that finally took on the day to day problems and nuisances that most of us have to deal with. That we feel but never say anything about.
I still enjoy the films but am taken aback partly as most of his problems seem to be with minorities. Sure they throw in some random Caucasians to piss him off and also arm them. Though it feels like they are thrown in to not make the character seem so prejudiced. Filmed during the L.A. riots of 1992.
This is a film that shows the different cultures of California and talks a lot about race. While trying to avoid it to a certain degree. Just as the only race he doesn't seem to confront are African-Americans. The only time he really comes across one who is an adult is him watching the man protest and being inspired by him.
As usual it is a Caucasian at the middle of it. While the film isn't entirely racist. At times it seems to revolve around stereotypes. Since a lot of the films humor is aimed at minorities and no one really being politically correct. So much so we really never even learn his real name. It is a character you wouldn't think of Michael Douglas to play, but he plays the character so well a symbol of white male rage meant to represent all of the audience.
Michael Douglas really throws himself Into the role and completely transforms. As this is the rare time he actually plays a regular Schlub with a certain look and demeanor that is truly different then the roles he has played in the past. This is one of the few times where he was so strong I actually noted his performance. He even claims it is his favorite out of all of his performances.
I like that the film subverts out supposed admiration of the hero as actually he is a man who has been broken and is slowly on his way to kill his ex-wife and supposedly gift his daughter on her birthday. The film gives a parallel between him And Robert Duvall's character both beaten down by the pressures of life and both in essence having lost a child. Tested to a degree. Showing one who let himself be broken and the other who by all means should have but stayed strong and worked through it. (This I was explained to me by my father and upon subsequent viewings made clear) and the same one hunting down the insane one. The sane one is the audience surrogate and informs us of he insane omens past and true fact that he was disturbed before this day. The kid who tells D-Fens how to use the rocket weapon could have learned the detailed instructions from watching BEVERLY HILLS COP II
The film plays like a thriller but half the set-ups and resolutions are comedic, Dark comedic but comedic still. Even though eventually it begins to play as a Vigilante tale.
The film like most films seems like it is a fantasy. If we could all stand-up to the everyday problems and people we encounter, that we wish, we could yell, argue and maybe kill. While setting up some satire. That seems rough and more rough and hardcore then light and subtle
The film seems fun until the third act as he seems to get more and more unglued. Where it generally begins to become a thriller. As he races to see his daughter and wife and we aren't completely sure what he has planned for them and the cops slowly close in on him.
We learn a lot about him through his ex-wife and get to see her point of view, also Robert Duvall as the cop whose last day. It is tracking him down and dealing with his own issues as he learns what his co-workers and even his boss really think of him.
What I like about the film is that there are a bunch of varying dynamics going on throughout the film. As Bill Foster gets closer to home, the weapons he acquires become more lethal as do the people from whom he acquires them; First, he acquires a bat from the store owner, then a butterfly knife from the gang member, minutes later an Uzi from the same gang members car and finally a rocket launcher from the skinhead.
The film seems more built as an action film. Though there is some action. It plays more as a comedic thriller with a good portion of action. The film maintains a grittiness throughout.
This is one of the better films Joel Schumacher has made that actually has material to match the style of the film. Which is when he excels as so many of his films seem more like he has to make up for the rather hind storylines. So he fills it with lush visuals. Here he more deals less with the visuals as a representative of what isn't being said and more lets the moments and dialogue speak for themselves.