You’ve gotta give it to Joel Shumacher, back in the late 80’s and 90’s, the guy was on fire. Having directed St. Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners, The Client, Batman Forever and A Time to Kill, the guy could do no wrong. Then along came Batman and Robin and all of a sudden the dude becomes a pariah. He’s done a few movies since then but his success is nowhere near what it used to be. Now, in the middle of his success, Shumacher made a movie that is as relevant today as it was when it was made. That movie is Falling Down.
Falling Down tells the story about a regular guy (Michael Douglas), white shirt and tie, who just basically had enough of regular everyday shit. Stuck in LA traffic with a busload of kids yelling, assholes screaming into their phones, his car A/C isn’t working and a fly keeps buzzing around him in his car. You can feel the tension he’s going through and it’s only five minutes into the movie.
D-Fens, as he’s called in the movie, gets out of his car and just “wants to go home.” On the way home is what’s the problem. As he tries to get home he gets confronted by problems. One problem involves him going into a store to get change for the pay phone but the store owner won’t give him change unless he buys something. After D-Fens gives the guy guff about his Korean accent (and the scene is basically a dick measuring contest between the two as neither will back down, kinda like two assholes we all know right now) and the price of a soft drink, D-Fens busts up the store and and starts rolling back prices. Another problem D-Fens runs into is a local restaurant that won’t serve him breakfast because its three minutes past the breakfast cut-off. D-Fens has enough of this shit too and pulls a machine gun on the clerks. It’s saddening because nowadays that shit happens every week.
On the other side of this fence, you’ve got retiring cop Prendergrast (amazing performance from Robert DuVall) who is confined to a desk for personal reasons because of his wife. His character doesn’t get treated with a lot of respect from his peers and his Captain. You can tell Prendergrast isn’t realizing his full potential as a cop. While the other cops get called to D-Fens’ scenes of the crime, Prendergrast starts putting the puzzle pieces together much to the other cops’ dismay.
Prendergrast is also a lot like the D-Fens character, he gets pushed around, wears a white shirt and tie, troubled marriage and also has to take charge of some situations that other people wouldn’t. Except Prendergrast doesn’t go all crazy like D-Fens does.
This movie could be a wet dream for a Trump voter because some of the things D-Fens goes against are the things a lot of people like to complain about. You realize though, is that D-Fens just wants to get home, but things just get in his way. There is a scene involving a Nazi who thinks D-Fens is just like him, the Nazi even says a few racist and homophobic things hoping D-Fens agrees with him but D-Fens doesn’t. D-Fens isn’t about that kinda life. He’s just into “freedom of speech and a right to disagree.”
As you peel back the layers of D-Fens, this is where I think the movie made a mistake. You start to realize that his character was already crazy to begin with. Making his mother uncomfortable when they eat by just staring at her, and his relationship with his wife tells us that he wasn’t the best husband at all. The movie would’ve been ten times better if he was just some regular guy who blew his fuse. That’s a lot scarier to have no motive than a guy who has already shown signs of being mentally irregular. With what he was given, Michael Douglas is fucking fantastic in the role and as he slowly starts to lose it, you actually believe it.
If you’ve never seen Falling Down, give it a look, you’ve got Douglas, DuVall giving it their best and you’ve also got Joel Shumacher making one of his best if not his best movie right here.