Title: Falling Down (1993)
Director: Joel Schumacher
There are movies out there that when you see them at the perfect time and place, at the perfect moment in time, they simply have this resonation to them. They click. They make more sense. The first time I saw Joel Schumacher's Falling Down upon its release in 1993, I was just a teenager. What the hell did I know about the world that I lived in? Next to nothing, Ill tell you that much. Back then, Falling Down was just a cool movie about a guy going crazy. Of course time has gone by, as time often does and I’ve grown wiser and more conscious of the world I live in. So naturally, watching this movie now is a whole different experience! Now everything means something. With the economy on the blitz and talk of being on the fringe of another "great depression" this movie makes so much more sense now then it ever did back in 1993!
Story is about a guy called William Foster, but you would never know that because for most of the film he is called 'D-Fense', after his cars license plate. He works for the government, making nuclear missiles. But one day, 'D-fense' simply goes berserk, he totally looses it. What drives him crazy? Well, to put it bluntly, the world we live in. D-fense cant take all the craziness anymore, so he goes on an all out war against society and everything that he finds wrong in it. But with so many things wrong in our world, can't D-fense even walk into a fast food restaurant without going nuts? He can’t even tie his own freaking shoes without some sort of problem making him go ballistic. The police soon gets a whiff of D-fense's erratic and violent behavior, so they begin an investigation on him. Will D-fense escape the clutches of the society that is suffocating him? Can his anger at the establishment be controlled?
Can’t believe I had not re-watched this one in such a long time. Honestly, after having re-visited this film, it shot straight to my top favorite movies of all time. I made a connection with this movie that I don’t think anyone can break. It has that energy, that truthfulness, that sincerity that I am constantly drawn to in all things in life. I love that truthfulness and honesty in the movies I watch as well, these are the most refreshing films for me. If people were more sincere in this world, I believe we would live in a better society. But as it is, people simply don’t call things for what they are. There is one magical scene in Falling Down in which D-fense (played brilliantly by Michael Douglas) walks into a convenience store. He wants some change so he can make a phone call, but the guy in the store tells him that he can’t give him change unless he buys something. D-fense says, you can just give me the change, I don’t have to buy anything from you at all. But he decides to go with the flow and buy something. Problem is, everything is too freaking expensive! Ridiculously expensive. It's at this point that D-fense feels like the world is being a vampire, so he takes his trusty bat and begins bashing everything in the store that he considers too expensive! That scene was magic for me because that’s actually how I feel about things nowadays. D-fense picks up a Coca Cola and asks how much? Guy says 1.50! D-fense says "unacceptable!" and continues to bash away at everything in the store. Is this an exaggerated and over the top reaction? Most definitely, but hey, you have to admit, he is right. We as consumers are being bled to death for products that don’t cost a dime to produce. D-fense is absolutely freaking right every step of the way, and that is why, when he bashes those soda cans I was right there with him in heart and soul, probably cheering on. Am I right or am I right? Hey, I know Im right cause I was cheering in my living room last night. I cant be the only person in the world to feel the bite of big business. Yup, businesses are biting down and they are biting down hard, like a rabid dog trying to rip your arm off. D-fense says "I’m protecting my rights as a consumer!" Damn right you are my friend! Bash those soda cans!
That’s what I love about movies like this one. They tell it like it is. This movie is saying, amongst a bunch of other things "you're charging too much, bring the prices down you greedy bastards!" It is downright electrifying to see a fictional character speak up for the rest of us out here being eaten alive by big corporations. Both you and I know, they could be selling us that can of soda for a lot less, right?
There’s an amazing scene where Douglas walks up to a golf field where two rich millionaires are playing golf. The rich guys are like; "get the hell of my lawn! Who the hell are you? Get out! You have no right to be here! You are not even wearing the proper attire!" And D-fense walks up to him and tells him this golf course should be a park for little kids to play in. Not a huge piece of land, just so two rich assholes could have it all to themselves and play the silliest game on the planet! I mean, I’ve really, since the day I was born detested golf. Its such a pompous ass sport that only rich people play, because you have to dress a certain way, you have to buy all these expensive things for it, and you even have to pay to go into the field and play it. For crying out loud, you even have to belong to some sort of freaking club. D-fense once again tells it like it is to these old selfish geezers, who have nothing better to do with their lives then play golf in this gigantic beautiful field that could be used for something so much more useful then what its being used for. Essentially, D-fense is saying this world could really be so much more beautiful if we really wanted it to be. But it isn’t, because of a little thing called greed.
So basically, D-fense goes all over town, and everywhere he goes, he meets some other person or confronts some other situation that drives him mad. Want to see what happens when D-fense walks into a hamburger joint? That scene has to be seen to be believed. Its so memorable! The dialog, so crisp, electrifying and poignant. This my friends, is a movie for our times. Don’t know if things are like this all over the world, but things where I live in are way too expensive; prices keep going up on things. What will happen in the next 10 years? Will we end up paying 5 dollars for a can of soda? Will there be more cars on the freeway then human beings? By the way, that scene with D-fense in the traffic jam is so amazing. It’s a scene entirely inspired by Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, where we see D-fense sweating away in the traffic jam. Kids screaming, car exhaust choking the air, people fighting, the heat is unbearable. Its no wonder this is where D-fense looses it. I’ve been there myself in that unbearable traffic jam where cars just don’t move an inch! You feel like you are wasting your life away, trapped inside of this metal box.
The traffic jam that makes D-fense go of the deep end
I compare this movie to films like Network (1976) because they are not afraid to scream from the top of their lungs just how messed up things really are. By the way, if you haven’t seen Network, do yourself a favor and check that film out. It has the same spirit as this one, but it aims its guns at the media and the way that it manipulates the masses and public opinion. Falling Down focuses more on criticizing consumerism, big corporations, gang wars, homophobia, fast food restaurants and a number of other themes that you can explore for yourself when you see this movie. It’s similar in nature to American Psycho (2000) and The Driller Killer (1979) where a guy goes nuts and lashes out on society. Question is, what kind of society are we living in that creates a person like D-fense? The film begs to analize the way we are living our lives, as a collective.
How do we know that this movie is controversial? How do we know its the kind of film most movie studios completely shy away from? Well, we know that precisely because it was rejected by every studio in town! The guy who wrote this script Ebbe Roe Smith, shopped the script around but was denied a green light every time because the film is simply too truthful. Movie execs hate anything that’s too much of the truth. They figure people go to the theater to see lies, they want special effects thrown at them, not the truth. That’s the sick twisted logic by which most studio executives live by. Maybe they are afraid of this movie making people go nuts same way D-fense did? Maybe the are afraid to actually make audiences think a little? But truthfully, the main reason for this films rejection was the scripts controversial nature. Still, this film was destined to be made because one fine day, the script for Falling Down actually fell on Michael Douglas's hands. He read it and thought it was one of the best scripts he had ever read. And so, with a huge star like Michael Douglas attached to the project, the film got made. And thank the movie gods for that! We got one of Douglas's most memorable performances ever thanks to those series of events! Shows how much the studio execs know about what makes a good film. For crying out loud, how could you not notice how good a script this was?
Joel Schumacher might have directed Batman and Robin, but hey, I have to give him some credit for Falling Down, by far, in my opinion, Schumacher's crowning achievement. Rober Duvall only makes this that much more watchable. If you ask me, he is one of the finest actors to walk the face of the earth. On this film he plays the cop who is on his "last day on the job" as is usually the case about cops in movies. Rachel Ticotin, whom some of you might remember as "that latina chick from Total Recall" does a fine job as well. She made me wonder why she dissapeared from the silver screen. Michael Douglas has always been one of my favorite actors, but this film has to rank up there with his finest performances ever. Right up there with Wonder Boys. Its a great performance that speaks out for a part of society that is often times ignored or taken for granted. Its the part of society that is stomped on the most: The Working Stiff. As D-fense yells at one point: "God Bless The Working Stiff!"
The thing with characters like D-fense is that you know they are doomed for destruction from the get go. Characters like D-fense are usually right with what they are saying. What they are complaining about makes all kinds of sense. These type of characters actually have every right to be going crazy from how messed up things are in the world. I can’t say I blame D-fense for going insane, I can’t blame him at all. The film also speaks about those who choose to go the “bat-shit insane” route, and what happens to them. Basically, if you scream too loudly against "the system" you’re going to end up in all kinds of trouble. On this film, a pair of cops take a man who is complaining about "not being economically viable" on the streets. He is screaming his lungs off at how unfair the government is treating him. The police come and handcuff him and take him away on their police car. In Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, a man is screaming out on the streets about the evils of society and what happens to him? He is taken away by a mysterious black van. This type of film criticizes the way things are, but they also warn us about what happens when you act like these characters, basically it all boils down to "you'll have a sad existence in the end". “Big brother” will come down and stomp your face for talking to loud about things you shouldn’t talk about. But hey, at least we got these movies and these characters to vent out our collective frustrations. Will this world ever get better? Will things ever improve? Will the abuse against the consumer ever stop? Will greed ever stop Who the hell knows, But I do have hope in humanity and our ability to change, I still think we have it in us to evolve for the better.
Rating: 5 out of 5