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Falling Down: Deluxe Edition
Freeways are clogged. Terror stalks our cities. At shops and restaurants, the customer is seldom right. Pressures of big-city life can anger anyone. But Bill Foster is more than angry. Hes out to get even. Foster abandons his gridlocked car license plate D-FENS on the hottest day of the year and walks straight into an urban nightmare both absurdly funny and shatteringly violent. Academy Award winner* Michael Douglas is Foster, an ordinary guy at war with the frustrations of daily life. Fellow Oscar winner** Robert Duvall is the savvy cop obsessed with stopping Fosters citywide rampage. This spellbinding thriller is their story, asking “Are we falling apart?”]]>
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A seemingly ordinary, unemployed defense engineer, Bill Foster, turns out to be the worst nightmare of a rude, insensitive Asian immigrant; Hispanic street thugs; arrogant construction workers; a panhandler who won't take no for an answer; privileged white men; condescending fast-food personnel; a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic neo-Nazi; and women (his ex-wife, his mother, and a female detective).
As his frustrations mount as he encounters a broken automobile air conditioner, a traffic jam, urban blight, child abuse, homelessness, disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, a drive-by shooting, rudeness, and a host of other modern annoyances and evils, Foster becomes increasingly violent, using the arsenal of weapons he's acquired as he makes his way home to see his ex-wife Beth and his daughter on his daughter's birthday. Gradually, Foster's apparent normalcy and decency, like his likability, are stripped away, and the monster he is within emerges, becoming known even to Foster himself.
Michael Douglas is outstanding, and he is supported by an accomplished cast, which includes Barbara Hershey, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Frederic Forrest, Michael Paul Chan, Lois Smith, Raymond J. Barry, and D. W. Moffett. Marlo Thomas even makes a cameo appearance as a reporter.
The movie's flaws are that too many social ills are crammed into the few hours during which Foster walks through the city, society is depicted as being almost entirely corrupt and as having little or no redeeming value, and Robert Duvall tends to overact.
On the other hand, although there are plenty of stereotypes with regard to people and their motives, most of them originate in Foster's own view of society and of life, so they are believable on that basis.
What is "falling down"? Society? Civility? Integrity? Foster? All of these?
The neat contrast between the ways in which Foster and Detective Prendergast handle the inconveniences, annoyances, disappointments, vexations, and problems of their rather parallel circumstances suggests the theme of the movie and implies what values motivate Foster and Prendergast, indicating why the former fails to cope while the latter is able to handle life on its own terms.
Falling Down is a sort of anti-Death Wish. Foster's rampage here is selfish. While his angst is both real and pitiable, his killing spree furthers only his own short-term interests. Even Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle acted for others, even if he did so impetuously.
When I watch this next, I'll just skip to all the good scenes. Korean grocery. The gang-bangers. Whammy Burger (an homage to the infamous diner scene from Five Easy Pieces). Army-Navy store. Golf course. The film's climax was, for me, anticlimactic.
So anyway, how did Michael Douglas not even score an Oscar nomination? Well, like he says on the bonus featurette, the film is far from uplifting, and indeed, was difficult to find a studio to make it. This Deluxe Edition includes a commentary track (Michael Douglas with director Joel Schumacher).