Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Written by||Ebbe Roe Smith|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.
|February 26, 1993 (USA)|
|Box office||$40.9 million|
Falling Down is a 1993 neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Ebbe Roe Smith. The film stars Michael Douglas in the lead role of William Foster, 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 is recently divorced, and his ex-wife Beth has a restraining order to keep him away from her and their child, Adele. In addition, he was recently laid off from his job due to the early 90s recession. He becomes frustrated when his car air conditioning fails while he is stuck in traffic. He abandons his car and walks across Los Angeles to attend Adele's birthday party. At a convenience store, Foster's frustration grows when the Korean owner refuses to give him change for a phone call unless he makes a purchase. The owner threatens Foster with a baseball bat, and Foster disarms him, scolds him for the high prices he is charging, and uses the bat to destroy merchandise before paying for a Coke and leaving with the bat. Shortly thereafter, two gang members accost him with a knife, attempting to rob him of his briefcase. Foster attacks them with the bat and takes their knife.
The gang cruises the streets and finds Foster in a phone booth. They open fire in a drive-by shooting, hitting several bystanders but not Foster. The driver loses control and crashes. Foster picks up a gun, shoots the surviving gang member in the leg, and leaves with their weapons. At a Whammy Burger fast food restaurant, Foster becomes angry when they refuse to serve him from the breakfast menu because he is three minutes later than the cutoff time. Foster pulls a gun and accidentally fires into the ceiling, terrifying the staff and patrons. He becomes further annoyed when the burger he is served does not resemble its picture on the menu. He leaves to call Beth from a phone booth but shoots it after being hassled by someone who was waiting to use it.
Sergeant Martin Prendergast, on duty 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 vanity license plate proves to be an important lead, because Prendergast remembers being in the same traffic jam as Foster. Prendergast and his partner, Detective Torres, visit Foster's mother. They realize Foster is heading toward his former family's home in Venice, Los Angeles, 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, 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 intimidating "a bunch of niggers" at the Whammy Burger. When Foster expresses disgust for the store owner's racism and homophobia, the man pulls a gun and attempts to handcuff him and turn him over to the police, but Foster kills him. He changes into army fatigues and boots, takes the rocket launcher, and leaves.
He encounters a road repair crew, who aren't 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. He next cuts through a golf course, where a wealthy elderly golfer gets angry at his presence on the private course and yells at him. Foster shoots the man's golf cart, sending it into a pond on the course, and the upset golfer collapses with a heart attack, unable to reach his medication which was on the golf cart. Foster next travels through the yard of a plastic surgeon, scaring the groundskeeper and his wife and children who are illicitly using their employer's pool in his absence. The sight of the happy family causes Foster to become emotional remembering that he once had a wife and child.
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, injuring her, 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 doesn't accept that as an excuse for his rampage. Distracting Foster, Beth kicks Foster's gun away as Prendergast draws his revolver, insisting that Foster give himself up. To leave his life insurance as a final gift to his daughter, Foster claims to possess another gun and prepares to pull it out, prompting Prendergast to shoot him dead before he can see that Foster's gun is only a water pistol, a toy of Adele's that he earlier picked up. The film ends with a video film of Foster's past happier days with his family, which he was watching before the showdown, continuing to play on Beth's VCR.
- 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
- Frederic Forrest as Nick, Army surplus store owner
- Tuesday Weld as Amanda Prendergast
- Michael Paul Chan as Mr. Lee, Korean store owner
- Steve Park as Detective Brian
- Vondie Curtis-Hall as Not Economically Viable Man
- Lois Smith as Foster's mother
- Joey Hope Singer as Adele Foster-Trevino
- Raymond J. Barry as Captain Yardley
- D. W. Moffett as Detective Lydecker
- Dedee Pfeiffer as Sheila Folsom, Whammy Burger employee
- Marlo Thomas as KTLA Reporter
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The film grossed $40.9 million against a $25 million budget. 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 generally 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 in 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.
Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club has been critical of the film: "It’s seemingly meant as a sort of dark comedy about the petty annoyances of life, and how they can accumulate and become so maddening that over-the-top cathartic violence seems like the only satisfying option. But Douglas’ violent reaction to his surroundings, and the way the film treats virtually everyone around him as worthless, and presents his violence as the comedic payoff, turns it into a tone-deaf, self-pitying lament about the terrible persecution facing the oppressed majority in an era of political correctness and increasing multiculturalism. In its ugly, skewed world, almost everyone but this madman is dumb, incompetent, and offensive, and his only possible solution is to wipe a few of these losers off the face of the earth, then die. It’s a profoundly hateful film disguised alternately (and erratically) as either tragedy or humor."
James Berardinelli wrote "Falling Down is replete with gallows humor, almost to the point where it could be classified as a 'black comedy'." John Truby calls the film "an anti-Odyssey story" about "the lie of the American dream". He adds "I can't remember laughing so hard in a movie."
The Washington Post writer Hal Hinson observed "This guy is you, the movie suggests, and if not you exactly, then maybe the guy you're one or two bad breaks from becoming. At one time or another, we've all thought these thoughts, and so when this downtrodden, laid-off, teed-off L.A. defense worker gets out of his car on a sweltering day in the middle of rush hour and decides he's not going to take any more, it comes as no surprise", adding "as he did in Fatal Attraction and Wall Street, Douglas again takes on the symbolic mantle of the Zeitgeist. But in Falling Down, he and Schumacher want to have their cake and eat it too; they want him to be a hero and a villain, and it just won't work."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars out of five, writing "There's no denying the power of the tale or of Douglas's riveting performance - his best and riskiest since Wall Street. Douglas neither demonizes nor canonizes this flawed character. Marching across a violent urban landscape toward an illusory home, this shattered Everyman is never less than real..."I'm the bad guy?" he asks in disbelief. Douglas speaks the line with a searing poignancy that illuminates uncomfortable truths without excusing the character. Schumacher could have exploited those tabloid headlines about solid citizens going berserk. Instead, the timely, gripping Falling Down puts a human face on a cold statistic and then dares us to look away."
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, including Time magazine, and reported upon as an embodiment of the stereotype.
Cynthia Hurley, the former wife of Craig Stephen Hicks, confirmed that his favorite film was Falling Down. "That always freaked me out. (Craig) watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all," she told the Associated Press in February 2015, just after the shooting that was allegedly committed by Hicks.
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)
In popular culture
In 2015 the film was adapted for theatre by Danish director Anders Lundorph. The show opened in February, 2015 at The Danish Royal Theatre in Copenhagen starring Nicolai Dahl Hamilton as William Foster.
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- Rotten Tomatoes – Falling Down
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- Falling Down – rogerebert.com – Reviews
- "Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews.net. 1993-02-26. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
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- 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
- Wright, Bruce (6 April 2015). "Craig Stephen Hicks Chapel Hill Death Penalty Hearing: Man In Court Over Triple Murder of North Carolina Muslim Students". International Business Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- "Festival de Cannes: Falling Down". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
- Reardon, Jim (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer's Enemy" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Music Video News: WATCH IT: Foo Fighters "Walk" (Sam Jones, dir.)". Video Static. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrUW3R65lRk. Missing or empty
Jon Frauley. 2010. "Moral Transcendence and Symbolic Interaction in Falling Down." Criminology, Deviance, and the Silver Screen: The Fictional Reality and the Criminological Imagination. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
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