C. Robert Cargill May 29, 2009
Once upon a time, back when I was just a wee little film lover, I was not the epic, world traveler of a film critic that you see before you. Nay. I was but a video store clerk hawking good films to those eager enough to listen. But one dreary, terrible Christmas Eve I was forced to work by a jerk of a manager who believed that it was easier to apologize than ask permission. We’ve all worked for a guy like this at some point in our lives. This point was mine. When my weasel of an assistant manager asked him if he could bail to spend Christmas Eve with his wife, the reply was, “If it slows down, yes.” Well, the moment there was no one at the register he grabbed his coat, clocked out, and didn’t bother to tell me. I was left alone on a busy night getting my tail handed to me by a bunch of people who wanted to know why there was only one idiot running the registers.
Well, by 10:30 p.m. I was ready to walk out and quit. But I held it together and tried to think of some way to vent. Then it came to me. I knew I wasn’t supposed to watch R-rated movies in the store on the television/advertising system, but I also wasn’t supposed to be left alone on a holiday either. It was time to watch Falling Down. Ten minutes to midnight in the final stretch to freedom, a pack of wily, loud college kids approached the counter. One of them, a girl no older than 19, began touching every musical stuffed toy anywhere near the counter. The front registers were flooded with a ridiculous cacophony of competing digital Christmas carols. She smiled and flitted around, proud of herself, touching any doll that ceased playing. Her friends looked at me, somehow thinking it was funny.
“You ever see this movie?” I asked them. They looked up at the screens, watched for a few seconds, then shook their heads NO. “Oh, it’s great. It’s called Falling Down. It’s the story of a guy who’s had a bad morning and decides that he’s had enough with all the idiots in the world and only wants to go home. So he takes a baseball bat, submachine guns, and a rocket launcher to anyone and everyone that gets in his way … SO STOP TOUCHING THE ***DAMNED DOLLS!” The last part boomed out of my chest like I was ordering cannon fire on high seas. The girl jumped back some 20 feet, frightened for her life. I smiled. And her friends instantly hit the floor laughing.
It is impossible for me to separate that experience from the film itself now. I, for that brief moment, truly channeled the spirit of Falling Down‘s D-Fens (Michael Douglas). What I did was in no way right. As annoying as that gleefully ignorant girl was, she was doing what she was doing not out of malice, but out of a self-centered nature. And while many of you reading the above story wish you could have been there to see that yourselves, you’re kind of glad it was me who did it. While she may have somehow deserved that, it was a little over-the-top. Sure, in the end she was laughing, apologized for “being stupid,” and I went home with a smile on my face and a funny story on my lips to share with my roommates. But much like many of the characters who run afoul of D-Fens, she got more than she really had coming.
Falling Down is that bad day — the bad day we all have when we throw our hands in the air and scream at how much we hate everyone else in the world at that moment. In the movie, ruthless, intimidating thugs, brutal racists, self-centered assistant managers, parasitic business owners, city workers talking about inconveniencing everyone for the sake of their budgets — they all get what they have coming. But the thing is, they all get more than they have coming. And that’s the crux of the film. While at first you revel in the “everyman getting his revenge” story of D-Fens, you begin to recoil in horror at just how far he takes it. And once he kills someone, all bets are off, whether that guy had it coming or not. And when he asks the audience one final, all too important question, you realize what the whole film has been about. “I’m the bad guy?”
Made in 1991, Falling Down is a perfect artifact of the post-Cold War/pre-9/11 era that was the 1990s. It was a time searching for a moral compass, looking for something to fight for or believe in. And this is the tale of a man who had lost his way. While much of the Robert Duvall storyline doesn’t quite hold up — it feels more like Demi Moore‘s role in Mr. Brooks, a character designed for the audience to root for because D-Fens is clearly a bad guy — all of Douglas’ stuff is top-notch and remains a classic performance in the vein of Dog Day Afternoon and Network. The disc boasts only two special features, but both are excellent. The first is a 10-minute interview with Douglas about playing D-fens and what he did with the character; the second is a commentary with both Douglas and director Joel Schumacher, loaded with tons of tidbits about this modern classic.
Complete with a case with a short, full-color book with actor profiles, trivia, and an essay on the film, Falling Down is available now from Warner video.
Categories: DVDTags: Blu-ray reviews, Dvd reviews, Falling down, Michael douglas