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  • Gareth Crook

Falling Down (1993)

What an absolute tonic Falling Down is. Alright not all of it, that’s the point, but if there’s a better film depiction of complete aggressive release, it escapes me right now... and that makes me a little uncomfortable. That’s because the film is an attack on the senses, it sticks to you, like the heat in those opening scenes on the Highway. D-Fens (Michael Douglas) stuck in traffic, sweating with the radio chatter, flies, screaming kids on buses and a suction cup Garfield taunting him... god I hated those things too. The sound design is a brilliant cacophony. Instantly you’re right there with this poor sod. There’s no messing around, but then director Joel Schumacher isn’t really known for subtlety. D-Fens (named after the car and it’s number plate he abandons) is a walking pressure cooker. We learn it’s essentially down to things not going well at home, divorced, missing his young daughter, but it’s more what lead to all that. He and his ex-wife seem totally mismatched. She lives in a beach side house and seems nice. He has a pocket organiser, a haircut to set your watch by, glasses that screamed nerd in the 90s, but are now in fashion and one helluva temper... oh and he’s a racist prat. This is all filler though for the real drawer of this film, a sequence of set pieces where our hapless anti-hero quickly loses his wick in a series of increasingly bizarre and aggressive altercations. The Korean shopkeeper overcharging, knife wielding gang members, nutjob gun freaks and burger flippers. It’s a relentless ride. D-Fens is a weird character. We like him, despite him being a piece of shit. He’s everything wrong with white america. He’d be a Trump voter. On the other side we have Prenderghast (Robert Duvall) on his last day as a cop. He’s the nice guy, too nice. He’s also got problems at home (and at work), but he’s the voice of reason, the calm, even as he hunts down the newly marked vigilante. The film largely shows us the world through D-Fens’ eyes, which is what makes me uncomfortable. He see’s ‘his’ country, full of foreigners and scroungers. He thinks he’s in the right, smashing, shooting and scaring. He’s not. I’m not sure I understood this when I first watched it in the cinema. I think much of it went over my head. I certainly missed the ‘It can’t happen here’ posters on bus shelters, but it’s complicated, playing up the sympathies for D-Fens and his 1950s outmoded sensibilities, even down to dialling him back from the redneck homophobic facist who thinks “We’re the same, you and me”... “We’re not the same, I’m an American, you’re a sick asshole”. It’s stuff like this though that makes it enjoyable. Letting off bazookas on city streets. Teaching rich arsehole golfers a lesson, “Now you’re gonna die wearing that stupid little hat”. It’s all a little off beat light relief, before D-Fens reaches his goal. I think I even felt a little sorry for D-Fens at the end before. I don’t now and this makes the finale all the better. It’s the right ending, satisfying. Sure, it’s all blockbuster material, but the dark tone is real and it’s not lost any of its edge. We’ve all had those bad days haven’t we. Where we just want to blow shit up and wallop someone with a baseball bat. No? Just me? It’s a much more nuanced film than I thought before and definitely one is pleased I revisited. Both Douglas and Duvall are fantastic, even if the rest of the cast is a bit hammy and the showdown with the two really hits the spot. Now, where can I find a bazooka?



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