Falling Down, the title coming from the nursery rhyme “London Bride is falling down”, is about a regular man (Michael Douglas) who’s has had enough. He’s in his car, stuck in traffic, in the heat, with no air conditioning. And all he wants is to go home. But, this traffic just won’t budge. So, he decides to abandon his car, and walk home. And thus this Homer’s Odyssesy begins.
Another man, a policeman just about to retire, literally his last day at work, also wants to go home. Kind of. He just wants to finish his last day at work. He’s determined to finish it, in spite of the people he works with, and in spite of his wife who just wants him to knock off early.
The first man also has a wife, albeit an ex-wife, and a daughter, whose birthday it is today. And this man just wants to attend his daughter’s birthday. It’s just that so many things get in his way. And when something gets in his way, he has a tendency to remove the problem.
And thus the stage is set for this update on “Taxi Driver”. A film about a good guy, who does some pretty bad things. Or a bad guy who thinks he’s the good guy. Or both.
It’s an angry film. A very angry film. And it’s also a good one. It was in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and just lost out on the top prize to “Pulp Fiction”. Possibly because “Pulp Fiction” has a very fresh feeling about it. Whereas “Falling Down” feels as if it were made much earlier. Back in the second golden age of film, the 1970s. The only give away that this film was made in the early 90s is the soundtrack. That’s the one part when you watch it today that really sticks out at you like a sore thumb. It’s sounds like it was lifted right out of “Kindergarten Cop” at times. The racism also sticks out at you. At the same time, those scenes feel very real. And we need real people in cinema. Even if we don’t always like them. Because even though the character is a racist, the film isn’t. It doesn’t show casual racism as being a good thing (Australia – take note), and it puts its money where its mouth it. Among the police are people from all walks of life, and when the detective tries to pass off one Asian man for another, the film calls them on it.
The interesting thing about this film for me, is the people behind it. It is arguably the best work of the Writer, Lead Actor, and the Director himself. Joel Schumacher, the infamous director of “Batman and Robin”, pulls out a tight angry little film. Every scene is perfect. Coverage is fantastic. All actors perfectly cast. Including the surprise casting of Michael Douglas, who excels in this film like no other film he has ever done before or since. A powerhouse performance. The calm business like exterior, hiding, but not quite hiding, the bubbling rage beneath. And the writer, Ebbe Roe Smith, an actor himself with over forty four acting credits on IMDB, only has three writing credits. A well received short film made for TV, next comes “Falling Down”, and after that, is “Car 54, where are you?” – a film with only a 2.4 rating on IMDB. So, you know what that means – even his family and friends didn’t like that one. A cop comedy staring Fran Drescher and Rosie O’Donnell is a pretty interesting follow-up to the 90s answer to “Taxi Driver”. And after that, nothing. I guess he just had nothing left to say after “Falling Down”.
“Falling Down” is an unforgettable film, from three men who have never quite managed to repeat its success.
And it’s my pick for Netflix this week.
See the trailer: