Classic Intel: Falling Down - Online Review

'Falling Down works because it asks you to sympathise with Foster on the one hand but presents him as a violent sociopath on the other'

Falling Down is one of those prime examples (thankfully fairly rare in modern-day Hollywood) where a great script has been married to a director just not suited to bringing it to life. Ebbe Roe Smith's socially aware screenplay, about a man who mentally disintegrates over life's little problems during the course of a day in Los Angeles, is tempered to an action aesthetic by Joel Schumacher, the man who would go on to ruin the Batman franchise just two years later.

As William Foster, the man 'falling down', Michael Douglas is as fantastic as anything he's done previously and his on-edge portrayal of our protagonist is terrifying both because of its disconnectedness and because of the amount of logic you can see in Foster's decisions. Falling Down works because it asks you to sympathise with Foster on the one hand (hasn't everyone experienced the feeling of getting to the fast food place just a couple of minutes late to have breakfast?) but presents him as a violent sociopath on the other. It's a brave and difficult character which invites both condemnation and admiration in equal measure, something which both Douglas and Schumacher balance successfully for the most part.

What Schumacher doesn't balance though is his need to make the film more action-orientated than the script seems to allow, imbuing the sensitive material with an occasional flash of something more 'balls out' and showing a predilection for blood-lust rather than his occasionally present social awareness. The script addresses ideas of family, society, race and economy and Schumacher, to his credit, keeps all these present and correct but his action-aesthetic doesn't fit something which wants to be much more of a straight drama and Falling Down is hampered by some his decisions.

With the focus clearly on Douglas, it's obvious that other characters will suffer and, to some extent, they all do with minor characters (Mrs Prendergast, Torrez, Yardley) being particularly poorly treated and clogging up a tight run time which we'd much rather spend in the company of Foster. Robert Duvall does a good job as the cop who puts it all together but really this is Douglas' virtuoso show and his performance alone is compelling enough to make this an almost-essential thriller.

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Look further...

'Like Crash or Closer, the film succeeds much more as an individual character study than as an all-encompassing 'social issues' picture' Mendelson's Memos, A-

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