Copyright 2000 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights
Falling Down Director: Joel Schumacher Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall,
Barbara Hershey, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld. Get the DVD from
Falling Down (1993) is one of the best films made by director
Joel Schumacher (8mm, The Jury, The Client, St.
Elmos Fire, Flatliners, Batman Forever, Batman &
Robin). This dark comedy has inspired Quentin Tarantino to create a
scene in Pulp Fiction. Falling Down is about a man who goes
insane on a hot day summer day in Los Angeles. It is also a caricature
of America in the 1990s, with its racial, social and economic problems.
It is a portrait of middle class society, its angst and neurotic behavior.
We can see homeless people and other dark sides of the "American success
story". But social and other criticism is not in the center of the film,
and the action becomes more and more dominant as the story unfolds.
Bill (Michael Douglas) is the ordinary white collar middle class guy.
He drives a car with the license plate "D-FENS" which tells you all about
him. Stuck in a traffic jam, he first tries to stay cool, but slowly becomes
nervous. Noisy children in a bus, a man yelling into his cell-phone, a
defunct air conditioner, a disturbing fly buzzing around his head. He starts
fighting the fly with his newspaper. After a panic attack, he opens the
door of his car and steps out. D-FENS needs a break and some fresh air.
His decision is clear: "I'm going home".
Later we learn that he is a former defense plant rocket engineer who
probably got laid off. Although he looks as if he was just heading for
his office, he is out of a job. He is separated from his wife and only
daughter. He does not have the right to see his girl - and its her birthday
today. The anger of D-FENS towards society slowly grows as he is confronted with America's dark sides on his way "home" - he still lives in the past
and cannot accept the separation from his family.
First, D-FENS calls his ex-wife, but does not have the courage to speak
to her. He hangs up, but wants to call her again. In need of change, he
goes to a small shop nearby. The Korean owner tells him: "No change. Have
to buy something." D-FENS gets a Coke out of a fridge. "Eighty-fie sen",
says the Korean. D-FENS: "I don't understand." The Korean repeats it and
D-FENS realizes this does not help him. He needs 50 cents for the phone.
He gets angry at the Korean who does not want to give him the change he
wants. "You go now! No trouble!" But D-FENS refuses to go. The shop owner
tries to grab a baseball bat hidden behind the counter. A fight starts
and D-FENS gains control. With the baseball bat in his hand, he wants the
the prices of 1965 valid again and he starts destroying different products;
today's prices don't suit him. In the end he gets the Coke for 50 cents,
pays and walks away, with the baseball bat in his hand.
The story is slowly heating up. D-FENS encounters two Latinos on his
way "home". The two gangsters tell him that he is trespassing on private
property. D-FENS gets into an argument with them. They want his briefcase.
He refuses and fights them successfully with his baseball bat. In the end,
he continues his walk "home" - now with a knife from the Latinos in his
The going gets tougher as the story continues. Later, D-FENS gets hold
of automatic weapons, has an encounter with a neo-nazi, etc. His counterpart
is Prendergast (Robert Duvall). He is a cop on his last day of duty. For
years, he has been working behind a desk. His superior dislikes him for
that but Prendergast just gave in to his wife's fears: she does not want
him on the streets exposed to everday dangers. Prendergast accepts his
premature retirement in order to leave town with his wife who wants
to go to a place she thinks is heaven - an illusion, as Prendergast tells
his partner at the office. But he does not oppose the will of his hysterical
and hypochondriac wife - to calm her down he sings London Bridge is
Falling Down (from My Fair Lady) over the phone.
The black comedy ends in a classic showdown between the Sheriff and
the bad guy, as D-FENS says himself to Prendergast at the end of the film
when the two men meet. D-FENS is ready to die: "My little girl can get
the [life] insurance." Falling Down is not as convincing as Fargo
or as Jackie Brown, but it can be seen as a kind of predecessor
to them and to Pulp Fiction. Anyway, with Michael Douglas as D-FENS,
Falling Down is a film to watch.