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Retro Streaming: #6 Falling Down (1993) – O-Fens is the best D-Fens

Synopsis: An unemployed defense worker (Michael Douglas), frustrated with the various flaws he sees in Los Angeles society, begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them on his way to daughter’s birthday party.

My Take

The world doesn’t flip out about stuff like it used too. The internet ruined an innocent age of outraged people writing into newspapers and picketing cinemas.

It used to be that when people had limited channels for both ingesting their entertainment and expressing their short sighted or small minded opinions, large sections of society would knee jerk react to movies they thought would mark the end of society as we knew it. The 80’s saw Mothers and Right Wing Church Groups walking around Blockbuster, picking up “video nasties” like Child’s Play or Chucky, dropping them, grabbing at their hair and then running around screaming “WHO WILL THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?!? DEAR GOD WHO WILL THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?”.

Then the 90’s came around and the same people got all freaky about films like Resevoir Dogs and Falling Down. I remember, even at the tender age of 9 when it was released, being very aware that there was a taboo film called Falling Down. The way people were talking about it I assumed it had a magical power to make people do terrible things. How was I so aware? Because my Mother was one of those easily outraged people. I think that’s where my unhealthy love of movies came from. I rebelled and this is what happened. Thank my Mum for this blog.

falling-down

I first saw Falling Down when I was 16 when it was on TV late one night and I thought “holy shit, it’s that movie I’m not supposed to watch. This is going to be awesome!”. And I thought it was alright. It felt a little dated, even then, and to be honest I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. So when I saw it on TV again the other night, 12 years on, I knew I had to watch it again. I had a feeling I didn’t get the most of it the first time around with 7 years of retroactive hype built up in me. Holy hit, this movie really was, and still is, great.

First thing I didn’t appreciate as a 16 year old; it is really, really, funny. This is a black comedy in the same vein as Payback and Lethal Weapon. I laughed out loud in a number of places as did my wife. When you get down to it the whole movie is absurd which generates an enormous amount of humour. But it is scripted from the get go with genuine, stone cold one-liners. Within the first few minutes a traffic cop turns up to deal with Bill “D-Fens” Foster’s car which is abandoned in standstill traffic. When people try and get him to move the car he says with a straight face “Sirs we have a dangerous situation with a lot of fast moving metal and glass flying by”. Then a comedy double take from the two guys looking at the stand still traffic! And there is shit like that all the way through. Every ramped up situation he finds himself in brings more absurdist humour. Particular favourite being the Whammyburger scene. That thing is played straight for laughs from start to finish. And to be fair, who hasn’t been super pissed when they wont serve breakfast at 10:31?

The other thing I hadn’t appreciated before was whole movie feels dirty. Sweaty. Like, if you wipe your face after watching the movie you’ll just pull off a whole load of sweat and grime. They filmed during the ’92 LA riots and the whole thing feels like a pressure cooker. The first few minutes watching his rage build as he sits sweating in traffic is oppressive. The use of the sound of the world around him to build to a crescendo in those first few minutes is brilliant. while I felt hot watching it. I wanted to go and wipe my face with a cold can of Coke.

Having been in LA during a heatwave I appreciate wanting to shoot a phone box when someone behind me is being a dickhole. And that is the brilliant thing. Despite his methods being entirely reprehensible it is often all too easy to see how someone if pushed far enough by the degradation in their private lives and neighbourhoods can flip out and go postal on everyone. At the time the world was not a million miles from where it is now, gripped in a recession with global political instability following the break up the Soviet Union. I remember thinking just how many parallels there were between then and now. Tragically following the banking collapse men losing their shit and taking it out on the wrong people is something we see too often. At least everyone who genuinely feels his wrath (nazi; gangster shit heads) kind of deserves it.

The central casting is spot on. Michael Douglas does controlled crazy really well. I almost always empathised with him. He made me feel sorry for him whilst he was being a giant douche. That’s a skill. Similarly Robert Duvall does wonders with the most generic cop-on-the-last-day-of-work-before-retirement-with-issues-to-overcome-because-of-being-shot-on-duty-taking-on-one-last-case role.

Finally I’d like to point out just how terrible the 90’s was for  fashion. The 80’s gets a bad rap but the early 90’s was criminal. Proof? These guys:

Terrible 90s Fashion

Verdict: Must watch

About

Taglines: The adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world

Director: Joel Schumacher – started out directing music videos and that style was evident in his early work in the late 80’s with St Elmo’s Fire and Flatliners. Nearly made the worst Batman movie until he ACTUALLY made the worst Batman movie and nearly killed the whole franchise when he made Batman & Robin. No-one want’s a Batsuit with nipples.

Writers: Ebbe Roe Smith – primarily an actor this was the only thing of note he wrote.

Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall and a whole bunch of 90’s people no one cares about

Trivia:

  • The man who is yelling about being “not economically viable” in front of the bank is wearing the exact same clothes as D-Fens. Even the tie pattern is the same.
  • Every studio in Hollywood turned down Ebbe Roe Smith‘s script. Producer Arnold Kopelsonwas getting to the stage of considering cable TV when Michael Douglas came across the script and pronounced it one of the best he’d ever read.
  • Aside from the baseball bat; Bill Foster never uses the same weapon twice.
  • Detective Brian (Steve Park) says that he can’t translate for Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan) because he is Japanese and Mr. Lee is Korean. In real life, Park is Korean and Chan is Chinese.
  • The cashier at the Whammy Burger, Sheila, is played by Michelle Pfeiffer‘s younger sister, Dedee. She appeared in the February 2002 issue of ‘Playboy’.

Streaming on LoveFilm and showing currently on Sky Movies

Dylan

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