Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Falling Down

Falling Down:
The Danger That One Man Can Do

We talk alot in Grindhouse films about a genre called "bad ass films" this the subgenre, normally connected to revenge films, movies like Jaws and Orca and the like are placed, but bad ass films aren't always exactly about revenge, its also the subgenre were you find alot of movies by actors like Steve McQueen, Richard Roundtree, Charles Bronson, and even Chuck Norris to some extent, and though these films, normally about some one man army going to take revenge on a person or a group of people, who done them wrong in the past were a staple of the drive in movies and grindhouse theaters from the early days all the way to the end in the mid 1980s when most of the theaters and drive ins were crushed by the rise of the multiplex, the greatest example, and possible the greatest of the whole subgenre was made years later, filmed in 1992, ironically starting production only days before the LA Riots broke out, and being brought to theaters in 1993, came a film thats not often talked about these days, but to those who remember it, see it as a classic with no equal. I am talking ofcourse about what most see as the greatest role of Micheal Douglas' career, the film Falling Down.

Falling Down is a stand out film for many reasons, it is seen as a brilliant commentary on such things as social injustice, the state of police effectiveness, gangs, family, economic downturns and ofcourse, the mentally ill, though it is never actually outright stated that Micheal Douglas' character is mentally ill, it is strongly implied he is schizophrenic, though he has never acted out before the start of the film. The film also implies that the wife of the film's main "hero" a tired old cop on his last day before retirement's wife is mentally ill as well, given her frantic and manic behavior through out the whole film, until she is finally put her in her place. The film also has a distinction of angering almost every single possible group of people that a film can, the Korean government objected to the film's portrayal of a Korean store owner as racist, stereotypical and untrue to this very day the film is banned from being viewed in theaters, on television and in rental form in the country of Korea, social activism groups in Los Angeles claimed the movie's portrayal of gang members was grossly inaccurate and done for scare value, abused women's groups claimed that though she never admits it, and its never implied, that Micheal Douglas' character beat his exwife, even though she states in the film he never did, the Los Angeles Police, fresh off the horrorshow that was their handling of the riots in the wake of their beating of Rodney King, claimed the film's depiction of most of the cops in L.A to be disrespectful and untrue of how the police operate, most saw this as a scapegoat tactic and dismissed it, the film even garnered anger from a group of defense contract workers who were at the time in legal battle with the government over how they were downsized, stating Micheal Douglas' character does not represent all of their kind, and oddly enough, White Supremacy groups claiming they aren't as antagonistic as the neo-nazi pawn shop owner in the film. Its always been said, a good film is only as good as the buzz it gets around it and however many people it pisses off, and well, this film did that in spades. Now with the behind the scenes out of the way, lets get to the actual film shall we?

Falling Down is the story of two men, William Foster, billed in the credits as "D-fens" the licenses plate on his car to imply that really the main character could have been literally anyone. William is a recently divorced father and recently fired from his job as a missile and missile guiding system designer for a weapons manufacture company in the post cold war end economic downturn in defense contracting, despite the fact he's been let go from his job over a month prior to the film's start, William still gets up and goes about his day as if he's still got a job, he never tells anyone he lost it, and its never explained where he goes to spend his day, because we never actually see where he is going, do to the events of the film's opening scene. Falling Down is also the story of Sgt. Martin Prendergast , a robbery cop who's been sitting behind a desk for many years after being wounded in a shoot out, this is his last day before retirement, Prentergast is an old school cop who's been pushed to the background for younger brasher less skilled officers who see him as a sort of joke, or a relic of old times and old ways, they tease him relentlessly, which Prentergast hates but given his old world polite nature, he just laughs it off, he is the first person to notice a pattern in the seemingly random acts of violence that is the trail left by William. and is able to track him along the straight line that he walks through the course of the film. Prentergrast doesn't tell anyone but his former partner a young detective named Sandra Torres, that he is retiring to care for his mentally ill wife instead of for himself. And though he protests through the entire film there is a pattern to these random acts of violence everyone except for Torres, his captain included, mocks and makes fun of him claiming there is nothing to it and he's just an old cop trying to make a big deal out of nothing on his last day.

The film starts out on a highway underpass in southern Los Angeles, its morning gridlock traffic and William Foster's air conditioner has broken in the heatwave level early morning temperatures. Surrounded by cars and the relenting heat, William tries to roll down the window in his early 1980s sedan, much to his dismay the crank breaks, leaving him stuck in the heat with no fresh air or relief from the heat, a fly buzzes around his head, he swats it away, as the camera pans around the people locked in traffic with him, the fly returns and he swats it around the car, to no avail, He sits forward and tries to stay calm, finally when his eyes meet with the girl looking at him in the car infront of him, her dead looking eyes are the final straw, he opens the door and gets out of his car, he walks around for a second, then reaches in and takes his briefcase, the person behinds him leans out of his car and yells "hey, where are you going?" William says "I'm going home.." and walks through the traffic over a hill through bushes, and begins his walk that will take him the whole movie to make.

William walks down the hill and decides to make a phone call, today is his daughter's birthday, and you discover that William's decided to pay her a visit, as the film goes on, and he gets closer, you discover that he's no longer allowed to see his daughter, because a judge felt like making an example of him during custody hearings. his first call to his exwife William says nothing, he then hangs up the phone, and goes to call her right back, he discovers he doesn't have enough change, he walks into a local market owned by a Korean man and asks for change for his dollar bill. "No change, buy something.." the man says, William looks shocked and angered at this, he asks him to repeat himself and he again tells him to buy something or get out. William slams his briefcase down on the counter and walks over to the refrigerator cabinet and takes out a can of coca cola, he pauses for a moment and says "it sure is hot out today..", he takes the can to the counter and the clerk says "85 cents" William looks at him shocked, he says "that won't even give me enough for the phone call.." the man says again "85 cents!" William says "no, I give you 50 cents, and you give me back 50 cents so i can make my phone call.." this is the moment where William finally snaps, and begins his fall. In anger William says that the clerk needs to learn proper English because he speaks horribly, he then says some racist against Asian things, to which the clerk says he's Korean, William then looks at him and says "do you know how much money my country has given yours?" and he starts on an angry rant about the state of international affairs, the clerk asks him to leave, then pulls out a baseball bat, William grabs it from him and they fight, William then starts to bash and destroy the store explaining that they're rolling prices back to what they were in 1965, after which the frightened clerk sells him the soda for 50 cents, William pays for the soda and leaves, taking the baseball bat with him.

A Patrolmen drives up to William's car, and after talking to the man behind him in traffic, attempts to move it out of the way, Prentergast who is several cars behind at this point walks up and after flashing his badge to the rather rude patrolman helps move the car off the highway so cars can get by, he notices William's custom plates "D-Fens" and finds it odd, before going back to his car after helping move traffic through gridlock. William starts to walk toward his former home in Venice from this point, he walks through a highly dangerous gang area, and sits on an old cement sewer junction on a hill the city just left there, and is now covered in graffiti, he fixes a hole in his shoe with an old newspaper he's taken out of his briefcase and drinks his soda, as he does this, two gang members circle him, and after threatening him, he tries to talk his way out of an incident, instead of just letting him go, they demand he give them his briefcase, he tells them they really shouldn't push him, but one pulls a knife on him, and as he goes to get the briefcase, he instead gets his stolen baseball bat, and beats the hell out of the two of them. breaking one of them's arm as he runs off William yells "Im going the fuck home! clear a path!" as he throws the baseball bat at him, William then picks up the knife that was pulled on him and puts it in his pocket continuing his journey as if nothing had happened. William calls his exwife again, and this time speaks to her, as she explains he's not welcome there, he tries to explain to her that he's coming home, that he's coming home to see his daughter, his exwife again states he's not welcome there, but he doesn't listen, he tells her he's coming home.

At this point the gang members he bet up before are driving around looking for him, they spot him as he hangs up the phone, they attempt a drive by on him but miss him by about a foot though he doesn't seem effected by it, shooting up an entire city street shooting 6 people instead, and then crashing in a garish and deadly wreck. leaving all but one of them dead. As he is bleeding on the ground William walks up to him and says "I think you missed.." the then picks up an Uzi which is near by and shoots it, missing the kid, then shooting him in the leg. He then takes off with the machine gun and the large back of weapons that were in the gang members car. The crowd parts and allows him to walk off as he continues his walk toward his former home. At this point the store owner from earlier has gone to the police and reports what happened, explaining that he wasn't robbed, he was assaulted and his bat taken, after giving a description of the guy Sgt. Prentergast finds it odd, later when a teenage girl connected to the gang who William was almost killed by talks to the police, she mentions that he was a tall white man in a shirt and tie with a baseball bat, which Prentergast connects to the store, he then starts to notice a pattern, though not sure where its going yet, the other cops mock him and tell him its nothing, which pisses him off more, once he realizes that William has a gym bag full of guns with him.

Next is the most remembered scene in this entire film, William walks into Whammy Burger, which is clearly ment to be McDonald's, and orders some breakfast, he's told they are no longer serving breakfast, they stopped at 11:30am, William looks at his watch, its 11:33am. He becomes angry, and after a talk with the manager who was rather rude and condescending, William reaches into his gym bag and pulls out a Tech 9 machine gun and starts to yell about how stupid of a rule that is and how all he wants is some breakfast, the packed restaurant screams in panic and the staff freeze in place, as he rants about how he hates that manor of business, he accidentally pulls the trigger on the gun, shooting several rounds into the ceiling, to which they all yell in terror, and he panics saying it was an accident. William then changes his mind and stays instead he'll have a burger, to which he opens it and discovers not a nice juicy looking patty thats on the picture over the counter, but a small flattened sloppily put together burger that looks kind of uneatable. He then yells "See, this is what I'm talking about" and contiues on with his ranting, walking around the eating area asking people how they like the food, one woman vomits and he jokes "I guess she didn't like the special sauce rick.." to the manager. He then pays for his food and leaves.

At this point Prentergast is completely sure there is a pattern to all this random violence, and he gets his former partner Torres to give him the details on the fast food incident, which she does, must to the disapproval of her new partner, who seems to do nothing but annoy her. He starts to map out the locations, and notices they're all kind of in a line can he can track the path. William again calls his exwife, this time to tell her again he's coming to see his daughter, she tells him the police are there, when he asks to speak to one, she hangs up the phone, telling him she's bluffing. As William walks out of the phone booth he's verbally assaulted by a man claiming he was taking to long and that others wanted to use the phone, calling him rude and many things, William takes out the tech 9 again and shoots the phone booth till its nothing but a pile of shattered glass and bullet filled metal, he then says to the man "I think its out of order". William then walks past a bank where a black man is outside protesting that they aren't giving him a loan even after 7 years of being a customer because he's not "economically viable", as this happens, William buys his daughter a snowglobe, he then watches the police take the protester away, as he drives by William he says "don't forget me." William nods his head as if to say he won't.

William then walks past a pawn shop, where he decides to get some hiking boots to replace his shoes with the hole in them. He walks in, there are two well built men looking through cloths, and a man behind the counter listening to a police scanner, the man behind the counter recognizes William by his description on the police scanner, and after the owner verbally assaults the two men in the store, calling them derogatory names because they're homosexual, after they leave he helps William find a pair of hiking boots, as William is putting them on, Torres comes in the store asking if anyone that looked like William had been in his store, the owner says no, and after being rather rude to Torres, she leaves, the store owner locks the door and then tells William he's his friend and wishes to help him. He takes him in the back and starts to show him his collection of neo-nazi propaganda, including of all things a nazi santa claus. He shows William afew things, and explains he wants to help him because he believes him to be a white power vigilante, claiming he believed William shot up the Whammy Burger because "it was full of fucking niggers", he then hands William a portable land to air anti-aircraft rocket launcher, saying he wants him to have it for his crusade, again claiming they are the same. William looks at him and states "We are nothing alike, I'm an american, and you're a sick asshole." he then goes to walk away, but the store owner pulls a gun on him, and tries to subdue him, looking through the gym bag of weapons, finding the snowglobe, calling it "faggot shit" he tosses it and it shatters. William finally snaps completely and stabs him with the knife he got from the gang members earlier, then takes his gun and kills the man. He then loads up on guns, changes his cloths, and calls his exwife, saying he's reached the point of no return, and that he has to see this through to the end. He then says again, he's coming home.

William then starts walking again, this time he cuts across a golf course, and after being verbally assaulted by some rich old man, who then hits him with a golf ball, William completely loses it, he pulls a shotgun out of the bag and the old man starts to panic, he then tells them they have no real right to fence in what should be a public park for such a stupid thing as a golf course, he then turns and shoots the golf cart, which rolls forward down the hill toward a pond, the old man has a heart attack, dropping to the ground, William verbally taunts him as he dies, asking if he feels his attempt on his life was worth it now that he's dying, "your pills are going to drown in your cart down there, and now you're going to die wearing that stupid little hat, how does that feel?" William asks him. William walks off as the man dies saying "this is my golf course..". William jumps a fence, cutting his hand on a razorwire fence, he then starts to tell at the people in the backyard for it, after they explain they are just the help, he then runs and hides as he hears the cops near by, as they all hide, he tells them of his life, and how once he goes home, everything will be alright. He then leaves with out causing them any harm.

Once the call comes in about the phone booth, Prentergast is completely sure there is a pattern and before Torres can tell him where the phone booth is, he guesses the general area, which is correct, he then tells Torres they're going to start at the first point and look for what could be happening. They drive to the market, Prentergast recognizes the billboard he saw on the highway that morning, he then remembers the car, and the plates, they look them up and get William's name and address, they go and talk to his mother, and then discover the bleak homelife that William has, and his mentally unstable mother is shocked when they call his employer and discover he'd been fired a month before hand. Back at the station Prentergast and Torres get the call about the shop owner, Torres says "I was just over there.. the owner is a real prick.." she's then told he's dead, realizing she might have been killed, then adding the golf course and the people nextdoor to the course, they discover where William's path is taking them, to his old home in Venice, right on the peer. As they're going to leave, Torres' new partner gets a party set up for Prentergast with a cake and stripper, after he says they need to go, Torres' partner makes a crack about Prentergast's wife, Prentergast punches him in the face knocking him cold, they then leave to head to Venice. As they do this, William crosses a construction area and after getting the foreman to admit there is nothing wrong with the street and its just to waist budget money, he blows up a water main with the rocket launcher he took from the pawn shop owner.

William calls his exwife one last time, telling her he is right around the corner, to which his wife grabs her daughter and runs out of the house, they run out the back door and out of the yard as William runs in the front door. William sits in the house for awhile, watching old videos of them, he notices his anger in some of them and realizes that he's caused al of this pain and destruction, and there is no coming back from this. He then realizes that his exwife and daughter are hiding on the peer, he rushes out to find them, and once he does, he pulls out a gun and everyone leaves. As William tries to pleed his case to his exwife, of how he just wanted to see his family, Prentergast shows up, and after a big monologue and stand off, Prentergast shots William dead when he reaches to pull out what turns out to be a watergun. "I woulda got you.." William says as his body falls into the sea.

From there the movie ends, and you're left to ponder just how out of the realm of possibility is this movie, which I find to be chilling really, the fact its possible gives it a kind of Last House On The Left kind of feel to it, where you know its possible that it could happen anywhere to anyone with a temper. Its blunt, its violent, and its completely insane and if you haven't seen Falling Down, you really need too. Its a true classic. Keep in mind also, there is a TON in this movie I didn't mention in my review, as to add to the surprise factor of it, its a truly deep film and you gotta look through it afew times before you truly get it all. Also, fun note, William Foster is the visual basis for both the character of Hank Hill on King Of The Hill, and Noah Bennet on Heroes, two things I always found kinda neat.

Sorry some of the images aren't working, you'd be amazed at for such a well spoke of movie around the internet, there is almost no pictures of it anywhere...



1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    Nice blog i like that dangerous story
    Movies are also a source of inspiration to many. There are many people in this world who have been inspired by movies to do something big in their lives.