|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Written by||Ebbe Roe Smith|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||February 26, 1993 (USA)|
|Running time||113 minutes|
Falling Down is a 1993 crime drama film directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Ebbe Roe Smith. The film stars Michael Douglas in the lead role of William Foster (credited as "D-Fens"), a divorcé and unemployed former defense engineer. The film centers on Foster as he goes on a violent rampage across the city of Los Angeles, trying to reach the house of his estranged ex-wife in time for his daughter's birthday party. Along the way, a series of encounters, both trivial and provocative, cause him to react with violence and make sardonic observations on life, poverty, the economy, and commercialism. Robert Duvall co-stars as Martin Prendergast, an aging LAPD Sergeant on the day of his retirement, who faces his own frustrations, even as he tracks down Foster.
William Foster (Douglas) is recently divorced, and his ex-wife Beth (Hershey) has a restraining order to keep him away from her and their child, Adele. In addition, he was recently laid off from his job. His frustration grows when his air conditioning fails while he is stuck in traffic. He abandons his car and begins walking across Los Angeles to attend Adele’s birthday party.
At a convenience store, the Korean owner (Chan) refuses to give change for a telephone call. Foster begins ranting about the high prices. The owner grabs a baseball bat and demands Foster leave. Foster takes the bat and destroys much of the merchandise before leaving. Shortly thereafter, while resting on a hill, he is accosted by two gang members who threaten him with a knife and demand his briefcase. Foster attacks them with the bat and takes their knife.
The two gang members, now in a car with two friends, cruise the streets and find Foster in a phone booth. They open fire, hitting several bystanders but not Foster. The driver loses control and crashes. Foster picks up a gun, shoots the one surviving gang member in the leg, and then leaves with their bag of weapons. Foster encounters a panhandler and gives him the briefcase, which only contains his lunch.
At a fast food restaurant, Foster attempts to order breakfast, but they have switched to the lunch menu. After an argument with the manager, Foster pulls a gun and fires into the ceiling. After trying to reassure the frightened employees and customers, he orders lunch, but is annoyed when the burger looks nothing like the one shown on the menu. He leaves, tries to call Beth from a phone booth, then shoots the booth to pieces after being hassled by someone who was waiting to use the phone.
Sergeant Prendergast (Duvall), who is on his last day before retirement, insists on investigating the crimes. Interviews with the witnesses at each scene lead Prendergast to realize that the same person may be responsible. Foster's “D-FENS” vanity license plate proves to be an important lead, because Prendergast remembers being in the same traffic jam as Foster earlier that day. Prendergast and his partner, Detective Torres (Ticotin), visit Foster's mother, who is surprised to learn that Foster lost his job. They realize Foster is heading toward his former family's home in Venice, California and rush to intercept him.
Foster passes a bank where a black man is protesting being rejected for a loan application. The man exchanges a glance with Foster and says "don't forget me" as he is escorted away by police. Foster stops at a military surplus store to buy a new pair of shoes. The owner (Forrest), a white supremacist, diverts Torres’ attention when she comes in to ask questions. After she leaves, he offers Foster a rocket launcher, and congratulates him for shooting "a bunch of niggers" at the Whammy Burger. When Foster expresses distaste for the store owner's racism, the man pulls a gun, tells him he's "going to jail" and attempts to handcuff him, but Foster stabs him with the gang member's knife, then shoots him. He changes into army fatigues and boots, takes the rocket launcher, and leaves.
He encounters a road repair crew, who are not working, and accuses them of doing unnecessary repairs to justify their budget. He pulls out the rocket launcher, but struggles to use it, until a young boy explains how it works. Foster accidentally fires the launcher, blowing up the construction site.
By the time Foster reaches Beth’s house, she has already fled with Adele. He realizes that they may have gone to nearby Venice Pier, but Prendergast and Torres arrive before he can go after them. Foster shoots Torres and flees, with Prendergast in pursuit.
At the end of the pier, Foster confronts his ex-wife and daughter. His daughter is happy to see him, but his ex-wife is frightened. Prendergast arrives and acknowledges Foster's complaints about being ill-treated by society, but does not accept that as an excuse for his rampage. Distracting Foster, Beth kicks the gun away as Prendergast draws his revolver, insisting that Foster give himself up. Foster pulls a water gun, forcing Prendergast to shoot him dead.
- Michael Douglas as William "D-Fens" Foster
- Robert Duvall as Sergeant Martin Prendergast
- Barbara Hershey as Elizabeth "Beth" Trevino
- Rachel Ticotin as Detective Sandra Torres
- Tuesday Weld as Amanda Prendergast
- Frederic Forrest as Nick, Army surplus store owner
- Raymond J. Barry as Captain Yardley
- D.W. Moffett as Detective Lydecker
- Dedee Pfeiffer as Sheila Folsom, Whammy Burger employee
Box office and reception
The film had a lukewarm box office response, grossing $40.9 million domestically. The film earned $18.1 million in theatrical rentals, falling short of its $25 million budget. However, it was the number one weekend movie during its first two weeks of release (2/26-28, 3/5-7/93).
Reviews for the film were mixed to positive. Falling Down holds a 73% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 56 out of 100 ("mixed or average reviews") on Metacritic. Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "the most interesting, all-out commercial American film of the year to date, and one that will function much like a Rorschach test to expose the secrets of those who watch it." Philip Thomas of Empire magazine wrote on his review of the film, "While the morality of D-Fens' methods are questionable, there's a resonance about his reaction to everyday annoyances, and Michael Douglas' hypnotic performance makes it memorable." Roger Ebert, who gave the film a positive review at the time of its release, stated of William "D-Fens" Foster:
What is fascinating about the Douglas character, as written and played, is the core of sadness in his soul. Yes, by the time we meet him, he has gone over the edge. But there is no exhilaration in his rampage, no release. He seems weary and confused, and in his actions he unconsciously follows scripts that he may have learned from the movies, or on the news, where other frustrated misfits vent their rage on innocent bystanders.
At the time of its release Douglas' father, actor Kirk Douglas, declared "He played it brilliantly. I think it is his best piece of work to date." He also defended the film against critics who claimed that it glorifies lawbreaking: "Michael's character is not the 'hero' or 'newest urban icon'. He is the villain and the victim. Of course, we see many elements of our society that contributed to his madness. We even pity him. But the movie never condones his actions."
The Korean American Coalition protested the film for its treatment of minorities, especially the Korean grocer. Warner Brothers Korea canceled the release of Falling Down in South Korea following boycott threats. Unemployed defense workers were also angered at their portrayal in the film. Falling Down has been described as a definitive exploration of the notion of the "angry white male"; the character of D-FENS was featured on magazine covers and reported upon as an embodiment of the stereotype.
Awards and nominations
- 1993 Cannes Film Festival, Nominated for the Palme d'Or (Joel Schumacher)
- 1994 Edgar Award, Won for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Ebbe Roe Smith)
- "Falling Down (1993)". Box Office Mojo. 1993-05-25. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- Rotten Tomatoes – Falling Down
- Metacritic – Falling Down
- The New York Times – Falling Down Review
- Empire Online – Falling Down Review
- Falling Down – rogerebert.com – Reviews
- "Kirk Douglas Defends Son". McCook Daily Gazette. March 23, 1993. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
- Appelo, Tim (March 12, 1993). "'Down' Beat - Up in arms over Falling Down - Laid-off workers are offended by the Michael Douglas film". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- "'Falling Down' won't play Korea." Rocky Mountain News, March 10, 1994.
- Carl Scott Gutiérrez-Jones (2001), Critical race narratives, NYU Press, pp. 61–65, ISBN 978-0-8147-3145-1
- "Festival de Cannes: Falling Down". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
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