Date Posted: 17/11/19
Falling Down is a 1993 action/crime film starring Hollywood giants Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall. It is directed by Joel Schumacher and is about an ordinary man, frustrated with everyday life acting out in increasingly violent ways as he tries to get home to his daughter’s birthday. The film also follows the last day of downtrodden police officer Martin Prendergast who is about to retire.
I have been on this planet and interacting with you humans enough to sometimes get thoroughly pissed off with the way your world works. Road works causing gridlock, do-gooders bugging you on the high street when you are just trying to get somewhere, bars that don’t let you in if you are wearing trainers, overpriced drinks once you do and a thousand other petty irritations as you move through your day to day life.
But what would happen if one day you just snapped??
If one day you’d just had enough, would the world give you a break or would those irritations just keep piling on until you just wanted to scream??
D-Fens aka Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) is stuck in his car during a traffic jam in downtown Los Angeles in rush hour during a baking hot day. In the stifling atmosphere of his car after his air conditioning abruptly fails, he abandons his vehicle, telling someone who asks what he is doing that he is going home. He walks to a local convenience store and asks for change for a nearby telephone but the owner refuses to give him change without purchase. He tries to be reasonable but decides that the owner is overcharging for his products which would not leave him enough money to make the phone call and acts out violently.
Meanwhile, an LAPD officer Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall) is facing his last day of work before retiring to be with his domineering wife (Tuesday Weld). In the department Prendergast has virtually no respect from his co-workers because they believe he was a coward who spent his time hiding behind a desk rather than being out on the street. Only his partner, Detective Sandra Torres (Rachel Ticotin) realised that it was his wife that made him take a desk job.
Prendergast struggles to catch up with D-Fens as his journey home becomes increasingly violent...
During the course of Falling Down the audience shares D-Fens’ frustrations with the world he is in. He has recently lost his job. His wife Beth has divorced him and taken out a restraining order which prevents him from seeing his daughter. When asked by the police if he was ever violent with Beth or their daughter she says no, and when the officer asks her why she took out a restraining order she tells him that she thought he might be violent. The bias of the law to side with the mother takes prominent place because the audience will be left wonder whether she took out the restraining order just to hurt him.
More often than not what pushes D-Fens to violence is something trivial, something that on any other day he would probably just ignore. He enters a fast food restaurant wanting breakfast, it is two minutes past eleven, and breakfast menu stops at eleven so the manager refuses to serve him breakfast. No one explains to him that the breakfast equipment in the kitchen is changed at eleven and packed away so it is simply not possible to give him a breakfast meal. The staff and manager simply tell him that he cannot have breakfast without telling him why which angers him.
Prendergast seems to be only a few steps behind D-Fens in terms of when he will snap. His wife calls him constantly asking him when he is going to come home, and he is ridiculed by his co-workers and captain. The audience can easily see how a normal person might suddenly snap when the frustrations of the everyday world pile up around them. I think it is a Joker quote in The Killing Joke in which he tells Batman that all it takes to turn an ordinary person into him (the Joker) is one really rotten day.
There are some of D-Fens’ actions that the audience will sympathise with, he stops for a moment to mend a hole in his shoe, and is set upon by two gang members who run away when he threatens them with a bat. The gang members return later with guns and attempt to perform a drive-by shooting simply because he stood up to them.
Throughout the proceedings D-Fens is trying to just mind his own business and get home, he is polite and respectful towards people, until they turn on him.
Both Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall are on fine form as the unstable D-Fens and the downtrodden detective Prendergast. The supporting cast are also excellent. Director Schumacher keeps the tension at breaking point and shows D-Fens’ slow deterioration into madness. One of the most chillingly glorious moments is when he realises that he is crossed the point of no return, the moment when it is quicker to complete the journey then it would be to turn around and go back.
I always enjoy watching this film and can see D-Fens in so many other characters that just don’t fall as far as he does. Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave is a nice man that is just constantly infuriated by the world around him; Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers is a man that gets annoyed with people constantly complaining about his hotel. The list goes on and on.
Human beings by and large just get on with what life throws at them, dealing with the thousand annoyances every day, but Falling Down is able to show just what happens when those becoming too much.
This is one of those films that io make of talking about whenever the opportunity presents itself, and recommend it to anyone who has had a bad day. It easily gets a Thumbs Up because as bad as your day may have been, it can’t be as bad as the one D-Fens is having.
9/10 - Falling Down is an excellent story about a man who has finally snapped under the unrelenting onslaught of everyday frustrations. The world is built to annoy and D-Fens is the man who has finally decided that he has had enough of it all.