An ordinary man frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.An ordinary man frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.An ordinary man frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.
Tagged as `the adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world,' Joel Schumacher's `Falling Down' tells the tragic tale of William Foster aka D-FENS, a now unemployed defense worker who finds himself trapped on a hot summer day in bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic. Having been pushed past the brink of sanity, Foster loses it and storms out of his car, walking around town and trying desperately to see his little daughter for her birthday, a daughter who is untouchable because of a court order against him by his estranged wife. Along the way, Foster will run across character types we've all come across: the 'war veteran' bum who is really just a lowlife looking to score some quick cash, an irate Korean grocery store owner, a homophobic neo-nazi army retail store owner, a crusty elitist country club golf player, super friendly fast food workers, young Hispanic thugs, and so forth. And each one will chip away at what remains of his patience and tolerance for stupidity, fueling a rampage.
Up against this anti-hero is Prendergast, a veteran cop who has felt many of the same pains as Foster, but who serves as sort of a foil to him. Foster has lost everything, and while Prendergast has lost quite a bit (his wife is a basketcase, his little daughter died years ago under mysterious circumstances), he still retains some optimism, calmness, and dignity. As Prendergast, who is on his last day on the job, begins to put together the pieces of the mysterious crime spree plaguing the city (he seems to be the only one smart enough to figure out it's all the doing of one man!), it pits him in an inevitable confrontation between him and Foster.
Michael Douglas, playing Foster / D-FENS plays an incredibly complex character. On the one hand, you know much of what he does is so wrong, but at the same time there's immense satisfaction at seeing him lash out at those deserving of it. And while he tries to stay calm, he finds himself constantly provoked by those who have 'wronged society.' In fact, many of the things he does could so easily have been avoided if the 'victims' were not so positively despicable. You can't help but feel at the end of the day, when Foster gets his due, that he's, in some small way, made Los Angeles a better place despite the carnage he's unleashed.
And this is perhaps what is so strange about the movie. There seems to be no clear message. Who was right? Who was wrong? It becomes a very blurry line over the approximately 2 hours of the movie's run. I've seen it now several times and I still can't give any definitive answer. Perhaps this is a strength, that different people will view this movie in different ways. Some will see this as the story of a noble, decent man who modern society has beaten down and crushed, and who desperately tries to struggle against the tyranny and betrayal. Others will see Foster as a lunatic who needed to be put down. No one, I think, will find that Foster doesn't warrant some sympathy.
Personally, I think Foster got the wrong end of the stick. His wife's anger and fear of him seems somewhat unwarranted, and though it is clear that Foster (and not just society itself) has brought many of his problems upon his own head, he is tired and angry and rightfully resentful at the course his life has taken. He feels he has nothing to live for, so he takes it out on anyone who crosses his path. I recommend this movie because the performances are all-around great, it delivers a solid cast, and as the portrayal of one man's journey down the path of madness, few have done better.
- Apr 2, 2004