Thursday, January 3, 2008

Falling Down (1993)

A Powerful Film...

The first time I saw this film, I didn't like it... yet for some bizarre reason I felt compelled to come back to the theatre and watch it again... and again... and again...
The film is particularly interesting because it plays on a common human fantasy : The wimpish underdog suddenly becoming empowered and turning the tables on his enemies in a very Hollywoodish manner... Though many films may have unlikely superheroes, the film plays upon this fantasty to a most ridiculous extreme and the realism inherent in the plot (he's not a superhero in blue tights) is what makes the film so unique... I mean, its one thing to punch out some guy you don't like... but to gradually acquire an evergrowing and more powerful arsenol of weapons along the way and use them to confront every single menace of daily urban living ? - - Oddly enough, though no idealistic Billy Jack (see "The Born Losers") Douglas's cartoonish laid off white male pencil pusher turned madman vigilante easily strikes a chord in the viewer... Yes, the guy is obviously off his rocker... but you can't help chuckling at him as he confronts one social ***hole stereotype after another... You watch the film - - understand that he's obvoiusly the bad guy, yet can't help cheer him on as he confronts everyone from gangsters to cheeky fast food convenience store workers (one who looks amazingly like one of the Brady's) ... and of course a paranoid homophobic neo-nazi Army/Navy Surplus Store owner. - - One downside of the film however is that at times it seems to try so hard to make its point.... My favorite is the "poignant" shot of the American flags falling to the ground in slow motion as Douglas "turns back prices to 1955" and teaches the Korean store owner a lesson about living in "his" country ! - - and also the various "montage" type sequences the director uses to demonstrate urban angst with the eerie incidental music... or even the "not economically viable" viable guy sequence and the shots of Douglas's character sadly watching him as he's arrested and how suddenly (...oh so dramatically) as the cop car stops he turns to him and says, "Don't forget me !" (cue the violins !) - - but the biggest example of the director's possibly intentional use of "over-dramatization" has to be the about to retire cop on his last day of work meaning from the start of the film you wonder when he's gonna it, and the director milks this to the utmost in virtually every line of dialogue whenever Duvall's character appears. - -With all this said, in the end, FALLING DOWN wins back every point in being a great film about urban angst and frustration, even "white rage" (though you don't have to be white to associate with many of Douglas's frustrations) and a film that bears repeated watching... all in all, I would say that by any standard, be it a message, action or "exploitation" film, this is a highly watchable and re-watchable film, so you'd be at a miss not to own a copy of it !
By Eddie Landsberg

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