Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down


Everyone’s had the moment where they’re at the absolute end of their rope and feel like taking drastic or violent action against whatever is grinding your gears. Whether it’s a hot day in horrendous rush hour traffic, a particularly irritating lineup at Starbucks or an especially dense customer service worker, you just feel like saying ‘fuck it’, and decimating the place with anything you can lay your hands on. In Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, Michael Douglas does just that on a sweltering LA summer day. His character, who remains nameless save for the moniker ‘D-Fens’, is a business man on his way home who just… snaps. Throwing a tantrum on the LA overpass, he quickly loses it, arms himself with a high velocity shotgun and proceeds to vet out every mundane annoyance, pet peeve and irksome scenario he can find. Whether it’s brutal catharsis he’s looking for, a cure for the doldrums of daily life or simply raging against that emptiness we all feel deep down, he keeps his reasons to himself, and let’s every other aspect of his character run wild. Holding up a fast food joint because they stopped serving breakfast five minutes too early, massacring homeless punks who foolishly harass him, his crusade sprawls across the valley and beyond, a righteous purge of monotonous, infuriating trivial concerns that soon has the attention of LA’s finest in the form of veteran Detective Robert Duvall and his crass, obnoxious lieutenant (Raymond J. Barry). It’s also revealed that Douglas’s personal life leading up to his break was rocky at best, with a job going downhill and hints of violence towards his wife and daughter. Quite drastic is the meltdown though, but it’s not quite a character study, he’s almost used more to pick away at the decays in society, a tool for exposing tears in the cloth we take for granted every day. His story is kind of like when you load up Grand Theft Auto on your console and completely ignore the missions in favour of a personalized war on anything that moves. His war happens to be against those little nagging inconveniences that seem like no biggie until they add up and you just go postal. It’s darkly funny stuff, but quite harrowing when you look at the big picture and the actual damage he’s doing to the city. Douglas is courageous here, it takes reckless abandon to go for a role like this, and he owns it in crew cut, well dressed fashion, a costume choice that absurdly clashes with the big metal cannon he totes. The film never takes sides either, recognizing both the bizarre consumerist nightmare we wade through everyday and it’s ability to dampen your spirit as well as the sickening extremes he goes to, challenging you to walk a line and look at both sides. Hard hitting stuff. 

-Nate Hill

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