Saturday, August 29, 2009


From the Vault: Falling Down

While Falling Down had potential as both an anguished middle-class cry and as a portrait of the makings of a madman, it fails on both counts and ends up being a slow, predictable outing.

Michael Douglas stars as a laid-off defense worker who snaps while in a Los Angeles traffic jam and begins to make the long walk to his daughter's house for her birthday.

On his way, Douglas embarks on an After Hours-type journey through a kaleidoscope of urban situations ranging from consumer disputes to life-threatening situations.

Falling Down also offers the parallel — and even more predictable — element of Robert Duvall as an L.A. detective on his last day of retirement. He could have easily become like Douglas' character, but he played by the rules and suffered through the system.

Though Duvall's performs well as always, his scenes tend to bog down the film instead of illuminating its themes, especially when he gets frequent phone calls from his unstable wife (Tuesday Weld).

Joel Schumacher's typically sluggish direction doesn't help matters since the script seems uncertain what direction to take the story. When Douglas' character pointedly asks, "I'm the bad guy?", you have to believe it's because he's received as many mixed signals from the screenplay as the audience.

Douglas does give one of his more assured performances, but he still shows his tendency toward self-consciousness. The film tries too hard at times to make him sympathetic, especially in an inexplicable scene involving his ex-wife (Barbara Hershey) and the police in which the movie seems to be saying he's only perceived as dangerous because Hershey thinks he is.

Frederic Forrest gives the film's best performance in a brief bit as a neo-Nazi store owner who believes he's found a kindred spirit and fellow merchant of hate in Douglas.

What Falling Down represents most is a missed opportunity. If the script had been more sharply written and the film directed with more verve, Douglas' character might have been a Howard Beale for the '90s. Instead, he's just a dull madman who gets what he deserves.

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Falling Down is one of my favorite film and has been in that class since I first saw it in 1994. Great social commentary and an even better turn by Douglas as D-Fens!

I wrote an entry on my blog that details how Douglas' character is one of my favorite anti-heroes a couple months back.
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