123 of 143 people found the following review helpful
This is a powerful film, but I personally don't look at it as some type of social commentary or condemnation of modern society, although it certainly touches on some of the problems that will always exist among human beings. Falling Down may well have a potent effect on anyone watching it, though. It always leaves me feeling really, really weird because it touches on so many things we all have to put up with each day, presents a monster whom I can't help but sympathize with in some degree, provides us with a hero whose own life is rife with undeserved problems, and runs its course atop a strong undercurrent of sadness. Michael Douglas gives one of his better performances as Bill Foster, an unremarkable man who finds his world torn apart and finally just snaps. He has lost his wife and little girl (which is his own fault); he's lost his job, the one thing that made him feel important; he just wants things to be like they used to be. He doesn't want to sit in traffic with no air conditioning or pay almost a dollar for a little can of soda or see plastic surgeons living the life of Riley while he can't even support his little girl. His journey "home" is an extraordinary one, and the kinds of awful people he encounters on the way do nothing to help his mentality. It's hard not to cheer him on when he manages to effect an escape from a couple of gangsters trying to rob him, but acts such as holding a burger joint up just because they refuse to serve him breakfast after lunch time is, obviously, way out there. No matter what terrible things he does, though, I can't get completely past the fact that he earnestly wants to see his little girl and give her a present for her birthday; in a clearly psychotic way, I find this movie somewhat touching, and that only makes the whole experience more depressing than it already is.
Robert Duvall is indeed quite good as the good cop, Prendergast, pursuing this vigilante on his last day before retirement. His life is no dream either, but of course he handles his own problems in a way quite unlike our man Foster does. His wife is clearly disturbed, made frighteningly burdensome and vulnerable by the death of their own little girl and an earlier wounding of her husband on the job. For her benefit, he took a desk job and is forced to put up with a lot of jokes and insults from his fellow cops, including his own boss. Except for his partner, all of the cops in this film are as unfeeling and cruel as some of the shady characters Foster meets up with during his journey home, and that is to me one of the more disturbing aspects of this film.
One of the things I liked most about Falling Down was its attempt to portray Foster as one very disturbed man and not a stand-in for any type of stereotypical vigilante; one character in particular makes this point quite clearly when, discovering that Foster doesn't actually agree with him in his own twisted, stereotypically extremist mindset, he asks the man just what kind of vigilante he is supposed to be. My own thinking is that Falling Down is not meant to be a warning about a group of potential Bill Fosters festering in the midst of society; instead, by showing us what happens to one man, it is warning us to walk carefully on our own journeys and to be careful to keep our tempers in check even when the world seems to be out to get us. At the same time, it doesn't imply that we should roll over and play dead whenever a problem comes our way, using the character of Prendergast to show us that we can and should stand up for ourselves but only in constructive ways. I really have a lot of conflicting emotions about this film, but the one thing I am sure of is that Falling Down is an unforgettable motion picture well worth seeing.
78 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
Some people think this film is about violence or anger or racism. It's not, though. It's about sadness. The sadness that comes when life loses its meaning. The kind of sadness that can drive a man to do terrible things.
Michael Douglas stars as an unemployed defense worker who is having a very bad day. It starts with him being stuck in traffic on an L.A. freeway. No one is moving, his air conditioner is broken, and the exhaust fumes are overpowering. Finally, he abandons his car and sets out on foot. (The opening scene is an homage to the opening of Fellini's "8 1/2.")
The unnamed Douglas character, as he frequently says, is just trying to get home. He doesn't want any trouble; he just wants to see his family. Events, though, seem to conspire against him.
Along the way, he runs into a Korean grocer, Hispanic gangbangers, a homeless man, a neo-Nazi skinhead, and other colorful SoCal denizens who drive him to the edge. That's where the violence begins. This brings him to the attention of Sgt. Prendergrast (Robert Duvall), a police officer who is about to retire. Before he does, though, he is determined to catch Douglas.
Despite being on opposite sides of the law, the similarities between these two men are greater than the differences. Both of them are failures at home and at work. Both of them lead lives that have never quite lived up to their expectations; lives of "quiet desperation." The only difference is in how each man copes with his failures.
Michael Douglas is excellent in this role, playing it in a very controlled and understated way. It would have been very easy to go over the top with it, but he never does. Duvall is good, as usual, in the more reserved, low profile part.
What is most compelling about this story is how real it seems. The things Douglas does are thing we've all thought about doing. The things he feels--the anger, the helplessness--are all things we've felt. In that sense, he represents a side of ourselves; a side we don't want to admit we have, but one that we can't deny.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2006
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Joel Schumacher's 1992 movie "Falling Down" is a chillingly powerful film that seems to get often misinterpreted. Don't get the wrong idea, there definitely IS substance to this movie--it's not just some kind of freak show.
Michael Douglas, in a spellbinding performance, plays William Foster, a man who totally collapses emotionally while stuck in traffic one morning. He ditches his car, leaving it right in the middle of the roadway, and begins an on-foot trek 'home' through the streets of Los Angeles. What follows is a day of extremely tempermental and violent behavior from Foster, lashing out against a Korean shop owner who 'won't make change', Latino gang members who accuse him of invading their territory, a fast food restaurant that's 'stopped serving breakfast', and a neo-Nazi gun shop owner who already has some frightening issues of his own.
With its story of a white man 'fighting back' against urban decay, "Falling Down" is similar to the 1970 film "Joe" (starring Peter Boyle). A deeper peek though reveals "Falling Down" to be kind of a cross between "Five Easy Pieces" and "Taxi Driver", both masterpieces in their own right--William Foster's wildly erratic and tempermental behavior strongly brings to mind the former's Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson), while the good-guy-turned-violent reactionary element of Foster isn't too far off from the latter's Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).
Michael Douglas is clearly the perfect actor for the role of William Foster. Douglas' terrific knacks for subtlety and dry humor are key ingredients to making his character, despite all of his fits of violence, frighteningly sympathetic. It never appears that Foster derives any amount of pleasure or satisfaction from his violent reactions--it's as if he thinks he is merely 'bringing justice' to the inadequacies of everyday life.
We learn that Foster's ultimate destination is to return to his ex-wife's home for his daughter's birthday. We learn from the ex-wife (played by Barbara Hershey) that she has a court order against him from seeing her or the daughter. She admits that he never actually resorted to violence against her on the daughter, but that she "thinks he could".
Robert Duvall plays Prendergast, an about-to-retire cop. Despite the fact that it's originally intended to be Prendergast's last day on the job, he becomes immersed in the trail being left by Foster. The two finally encounter each other in the movie's powerful 'big climax'--by this time, Foster has definitely reached the point of insanity, or as he says in his own words a bit earlier on in the film, "past the point of no return".
Michael Douglas makes it seems as though this kind of devastating emotional collapse could easily happen to just about any 'average Joe', and that's where a great deal of the film's power lies. "Falling Down" is a thought-provoking movie that really stays with you.
50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2000
Movie Critics are morons. All of these characters ARE stereotypes, as are the characters in 85% of Hollywood's movies today. Panning this movie for it's blatent use of these cliched people kind of misses 'the point' they were looking for. People are ugly, racist, and selfish. This man (with serious emotional problems) takes a look around his world (downtown LA) and slowly begins breaking down. How many of us can identify with the idea of the American Dream gone wrong? Being menaced by a gang? Being lied to by advertising? 'they lie to everybody'. Micheal Douglas portrayal of a Joe Blow gone bad is mesmerizing. Unlike 'Payback', I actually found myself rooting for the 'bad guy'. What Douglas does is ugly, what we all see everyday is ugly. Robert Duvall (as mentioned before) is rock solid.
The DVD's main benefit is crystal clear audio and video. It features scene selection and the trailer. Had it included a few extras (Like a MD or RD commentary track, I'd rate it a 5). This movie is about the 'average man' in a cruddy world who can't take it anymore. He could have been someone you worked with, or saw when you're getting off the bus, or waitied in line behind. And THAT was the point of this movie.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2000
This movie is one of my all-time favourite movies. It showes the reality of "just another day in our sick society", and the main person D-Fens is like a hero to me. He is not the sick element, but his surroundings are. This movie can be a warning to a lot of weak people, people who made and make this society as dehumanizing as it is now, but at the same time can`t deal with their own mess. I believe that people who are shocked about this movie can`t deal with the truth, because they feel something like regret, feelings of guilt. Wanna know why ? Because almost everybody is building this anti-human-society every day, just a little piece of it. Buy this movie, watch it over and over, and don`t look at it like "entertainment", but look at it like something real, something different, some personal warning to everybody. Everyting Bill "D-Fens" Foster does is totally acceptable, because the people around made him what he was at this hot L.A.-summer-day. This movie contains also a lot of funny elements. WATCH IT ! (and understand the honesty of this movie)
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This film is absolutely mesmerizing. Michael Douglas snaps one day and goes wandering through Los Angeles. I think it's interesting when you read reviews on this movie from people in the midwest who don't get this movie. People in L.A. on the other hand certainly do get it. I can tell you from personal experience of living there and being held at gun point by scumbags that anyone could be pushed over the edge in LA. I found this movie to be laugh-out-loud funny especially when Michael Douglas orders a "Whammy Burger" and when he tries out his rocket launcher after an argument with a Cal-Trans employee. "There's nothing wrong with the road, but I'll give you something to fix." I don't think people outside of LA can appreciate that scene as much. And watching Michael Douglas on that golf course had my side hurting for days from painful laughter. Yes, it's sick but the way he looks down at the old guy and says, "And now you're going to die...with that silly hat on", was fantastic. And how about the scene with the white supremist? If you think this movie had too many stereotypes, then you've never been to LA. It's a sick place with sick people where sick things happen. Yes, it's awful that people get shot, but a lot of people in LA deserve what happens to them which this film boldy proves. Studies have shown that the combination of stress, traffic jams, and smog can make someone lose it. What's the point? The point is you should appreciate wherever you live as long as it's not there. Michael Douglas should have got an Oscar for his performance. This was the best movie of the year although it's obviously not for all tastes.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
Yeah, yeah... I know, the film is loaded with stereotypes and hokey moments. Especially that scene where Duval sings to his nutty wife over the phone... Ick.
Yet, lets get beyond that stuff. Is this film all superficial? No substance? HARDLY!!
Number one... it is "unique." Oh sure, the retiring cop afraid of being killed on his last day is cliche, but it's not the main thrust of the movie.
Number two... stereotypes DO have a basis in reality. It isn't over reaching to imagine the gang members, the convinience store owner unwilling to break a dollar, the fast food joint insisting on "lunch menu" only one minute after the change over, the neo Nazi militant, the snobbish country club coots, etc, etc.
Number three... Douglas has flipped his wig. He's really not responsible for his actions, as he does everything most of us have secretly fantasized about. It's not really a "celebration" of violence, but it seems absurdly FUNNY as he acts out his retributions. He is obsessed with his ex-wife and daughter... he can't accept their loss. His mind is falling down...
Number four... The main thrust of the movie is a societal commentary. Everyone is after the "crazy man" with a white shirt and gym bag... but when put in perspective, the wandering psycho isn't as "sick" as what is ACCEPTED in modern day LA. Gangs, drive-by shootings, rude store and food service workers, closet nazis, people who are "not economically viable," loud mouthed jerks in traffic jams, country club snobs who can't even tolerate a person "passing through," and on and on.
This point is drummed home perfectly when Douglas says to his wife "I'm sick? Take a walk through this town... THAT'S SICK." Every weapon Douglas carries is "taken" off somebody else... he just absorbs the sickness that's around him.
SPOILER ALERT>>> in the end, Douglas realizes he's ruined whatever chance he had for a normal life. He willing sarifices himself, so his estranged daughter could benefit. Douglas meets his end, and we weep for the "bad guy."
Meanwhile, our sick society goes on being sick...
This is a truly memorable movie, with a few cliche' moments.
Jeff Messenger, author of the novel "The Shroud of Torrington."
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2003
This will be a commentary on the "editorial review" of the movie for other Amazon users have already given good reviews of it.
It seemed to me like the pro. missed the first 10 minutes of the film, and missed what was happening around him in the early '90s.
As a former defense worker I can assure you that this is the only sympathetic movie out there for the tens of thousands of people who lost their jobs due to permanent downsizing. I was not one of them but I survived a 50% downsize, no morale booster in itself.
Michael Douglas has been in defense for 2+ decades.
He's laid off. Just like that. It's about how a def. worker comes out into the real Central/East/South LA at that time and is in disbelief that people treat each other the way they do.
In silence, he looks around at this place and I'm thinking he's wondering why he spent his life building weapons to save these people from being occupied by other countries. It has cost him his wife, custody of his child, and now he is "thanked" by being made redundant.
He'd just like to show up at his daughter's birthday party, against his wife's wishes. Yeah, as he runs into trouble along the way he gets more desparate and more isolated. The cop pursuing him played by Robert Duvall is also obsolete, which gives him insight into finding him.
I guess the editor, Marshall Fine, was living in his own world when he wrote his review of the movie.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2004
Here's the story of a simple man (played very well by Michael Douglas) who's life is crumbling around him. He's been layed-off for months now from the Defense Industry, a job he loved so much that he had his license plate personalized with the letters "D FENS". His marraige is over. He's been reduced to living with his mother, and is too ashamed to tell anyone that he's unemployed. He's been looking for work elsewhere but is "no longer economically viable", as you'll find out.
He snaps and leaves his car sitting in a traffic jam on one of L.A.'s freeways. In the next 8hrs he goes from being a transparent man to a heavily-armed, camoflage-wearing vigilante who deals a heavy hand to anyone who gets in his way. And in the streets of L.A., it's not hard to find someone who wants to get in your way.
Robert Duvall plays an L.A. Robbery Detective who just happens to be working his last day before retirement. He's chastised for having taken a desk job after a shooting incident, at the insistence of his wife (the only character in this movie I couldn't stand). And he realizes most of his fellow cops won't miss him for long when he retires. But, he's the only cop who links several violent crimes on that day to the vigilante defense worker. He further redeems himself by tracking down and stopping the vigilante. At the same time, he rescues his boys from his wife's purse and takes a stand for once in his life.
You'll find yourself cheering for the vigilante as he leaves death and destruction in his wake. And at the same time, you can't help but feel sorry for him because his life is falling apart, hence the film's appropriately-named title, "Falling Down". I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. 4+ stars.
If you liked this Joel Schumacher movie, I recommend one of his newest films, "Phone Booth".
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Although most reviews of this movie have focused on the appeal of watching Michael Douglas flip out and exert revenge on the society that has rendered him 'not viable', what I really love about this movie is its portrayal of Los Angeles as a kind of disparate urban jungle, and the enormous social barriers existing among people living in close geographical proximity. There is a palpable sense of desperation and tension throughout the movie, not just in the central protagonist, but also in the 'extras' who in other movies do no more than fill space. Above all the movie feels as though the camera has just happened to follow D-Fens around for one day, there is a sense that he is a very unimportant man in a big city, and all the time the viewer is aware that the world around D-Fens is going on, regardless of him or his actions. This contrasts sharply to most action movies where it seems as though the hero or heroine is the centre of the universe in which the film is set, and that all other characters or objects are simply there to allow them to do their thing.