Take the hottest day of the year, a traffic gridlock, cracked pavements, dirty streets, unwarranted hostility and a general feeling of being short changed. Then add the frustrations of having an estranged wife and child, an extremely jaded and unbalanced mindset, and the frustration of being obsolete with no marketable skills. Set them against the decadent back drop of modern day LA where if you are 'Not economically viable,' you are of no use, and the result is Falling Down.
The tag line 'The Adventures of an Ordinary man at War with the Everyday World,' makes Joel Schumacher's masterpiece sound like the benign story of a working stiff with issues. However Falling Down is a dark and engrossing urban fable, a study into the mind of the disenfranchised and reminder to all that the removal of comfort is a lot closer than we care to believe.
Full of clichés, like the cop on his last day before retiring, Falling Down bravely meets all expectations of stereotypes, rather than challenging them, making for a realistic reflection of a failing society. Here, a man in extremis, without the feral cunning or killer instinct required for a life in the street, makes his way on anger and luck alone, somehow surviving to leave a paper chase of violence and destruction behind.
Relying heavily on symbolism, illustrating a flip side of America running parallel to the hunky dory world occupied by the successful, the over all message of 'No Matter, Never Mind,' is clear in this world where children play next to vagrants dying from AIDS and Korean grocers can legally steal from the public with their overpriced goods.
Michael Douglas displays some hitherto unseen talent as the unbalanced D-FENS, as he casually totes gang weapons (complete with rubber bands on the grips) in his formal shirt and tie, does battle with store owners and comes up against fast food restaurants, homeless people, gangsters and Nazis. Robert Duval is equally brilliant as the desk jockey on his final day, determined to stop anyone else from being hurt, including the perp.
There is, of course, a small amount of Hollywood sentimentality thrown in for good measure, however the dynamics of such a strong narrative make this completely forgivable and it's possible to overlook this as a flaw given the film's overall strengths.
Praise surely has to go to Ebbe Roe Smith for writing one of the finest scripts ever to grace celluloid. Known for bit parts and cameos, who the hell knows who Ebbe really is? Look on IMDb to find out (if you're a geek like me) or release him into the ether if you don't care. The truth is, he's out there. The question is: Where's the next script?
On the whole, Falling Down is a powerful and dramatic indictment of American culture, societal decadence, and the failing values of the West. It's not for everyone and will most certainly offend some, but if approached with an open mind, will provide plenty of fuel for thought.