FALLING DOWN (1993)
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Available on Amazon Prime Instant Video
A disgruntled father makes his way across LA to visit his ex-wife and daughter on his little girl’s birthday but not before unleashing havoc across the city by exposing the injustices in the world.
Stuck in gridlocked traffic on a sweltering hot day with no sign of movement thanks to roadworks is enough to drive anyone to snap and that’s exactly what William Forster does in Falling Down. A bespectacled Michael Douglas plays the frustrated William who seems to have reached the end of his tether and finally has a mental breakdown. The thought of being with his little girl on her birthday is the only thing that drives him so he decides to make his way to their house near the beach on foot. Unfortunately for William, his journey isn’t made easy and a variety of incidents and people stand between him and his quest so William deals with it in the only way he knows how: with violent outbursts.
What makes Falling Down such an iconic film is that William ‘D-Fens’ Forster is just an ordinary guy like you or I. Through one thing or another he’s encountered hiccups along the way that has slowly worn him down to the point where he can’t take the bullshit that life has flung at him anymore. Granted, William seems to have more of a hot-temper than your ordinary bloke but his consequential scenes of violence throughout the city, after leaving his car stuck in a traffic jam, is one we can all relate to.
Ever felt you’ve been overcharged? Or maybe you’ve ordered a burger from a fast food joint that in no way resembles the juicy, succulent burger images on the lightbox menus? Every day we’re getting screwed over and William wants to right these wrongs just as he wants to right the wrong of the breakdown of the relationship with his family. William could easily take everyone down with him but in his head he just wants to do what’s right and what he thinks is morally right, particularly from a consumer angle as he exercises his opinion on being overcharged for a Coke with a little help from a baseball bat. However, William’s passion for righting the injustices soon reaches breaking point – a point of no return – and he realises he’s in too deep to stop now and the only thing he has to do before being brought down is to see his little girl.
Barbara Hershey plays William’s ex-wife and it’s no surprise she’s frightened by the intended visit of her ex-husband who’s threats on the phone, after being told he can’t visit them, leaves her concerned for their safety. William’s ensuing acts have also caught the attention of retiring police officer Prendergast (Robert Duvall) who realises that the crimes being committed across the city must be by the same guy and decides to spend his final day in the office by stopping him before it’s too late.
Falling Down is such a memorable, stand-out piece of cinema because many people out there can relate to William. Douglas’ brilliant portrayal of a man pushed over the edge could easily be any one of us and whilst his methods are a bit on the violent side, as a viewer you can’t help but understand the guy and even, in some way, root for him. His torments are not unlike those of the people around him except he decides enough is enough and takes his life into his own hands than rather be another number, another worker ant obeying the laws of society and getting screwed at each and every turn. After devoting his life and work to his country, society has decided he’s not needed anymore and he’s simply tossed to one side like a used tissue. By not being economically viable, Forster becomes obsolete so it’s not exactly surprising he reacts in the way he does. He’s a victim of society but through his anger and displeasure at the way he’s been treated becomes a threat of his own that needs to be neutralised.
Still as relevant today as it was in the 90’s, Falling Down is one of the few films that really shows us the harsh reality of society. A must-watch.