Twenty years ago today, the world met William Foster, Michael Douglas's embattled, harried and very vengeful unemployed defense engineer in Falling Down. The film, helmed by hit-and-miss director Joel Schumacher, was one of the most controversial flicks of that year.
It also happens to be one of the director's best. Lump this one in with Tigerland, The Lost Boys and Phone Booth for a great triple-header.
A white man roaming Los Angeles armed to the teeth, righting all of the wrongs that he saw, was uncomfortable for many, and hit close to home for some. At the time of the film's release, the concept of the "angry white male" was just about to reach its maximum media spot in the sun. The Waco standoff was about three days away from becoming world news, and the assault on Ruby Ridge was still a fresh memory from that past summer.
The folks at FilmSchoolRejects have already profiled their six favorite scenes from the flick, and lamented Falling Down's lack of Oscar love. It didn't do so hot at the box office, but it has become a minor cult hit since its release.
The FSR crew left out the scene in the army surplus store. Okay, I guess that scene wasn't supposed to by "funny," but it was at least memorable and oddly quotable.
Falling Down was dumped into theaters in late February, meaning that the studio probably had less-than-stellar hopes for it, its Douglas and Robert Duvall star-wattage notwithstanding. It opened against Amos & Andrew, a Nicolas Cage movie that's awful even by Nicolas Cage movie standards.
(Schumacher also made Cage's 8MM, which I have a soft spot for.)
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If a film like Falling Down dropped in 2013, there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth from coast to coast, especially in our current political climate. In 1993, the stakes weren't as high as they are now. Right-wing anger toward President Clinton was quaint and playful compared to what we have now.
Foster's rage against society wasn't too far removed from Howard Beale's own televised diatribes in Network, and seeing Douglas as someone nothing like his dynamic and ruthless Gordon Gekko in Wall Street may have been a shock.
What was so unnerving about Falling Down was that someone like Foster could be in your own family, at your job or in your neighborhood. Remember, this was the same era in which the term "going postal" was coined due to so many U.S. postal workers engaging in mass shootings.
When he wasn't hectoring people who got in his way, raging at racial stereotypes or divvying out his own bloody street justice, Foster actually made some sense, at least in regards to consumerism, bureaucracy and modern madness. As a family man, he was far from well-adjusted. You empathized with him to a point and then had to let go.