Reaching back into the past for ideas has become a common practice over the last several years. In fact, it’s been this way for the past decade, and longer since people are still enamored of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and so on. There were a lot of great movies that came during those decades, and it does feel that if someone had the vision needed, they might be able to come up with ideas that would not only pay homage to such movies, they would be able to have the same social impact that these movies had back in the day. In 1993, a movie starring Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall came out titled Falling Down, and while it might not be remembered by everyone, it was a very impactful movie that made a lot of sense at the time and would even make sense today with a few updates that would bring the idea into the modern era. The moment that the character of Bill Foster is introduced to the audience it’s kind of obvious that he’s not all there, and that he’s a man under tremendous stress. When he ditches his car in rush hour traffic, however, and starts walking, it’s not yet apparent that he’s snapped. That comes several minutes later.
Bill Foster is the average working stiff in this movie, and, like it or not, a lot of people can feel his frustration.
There’s no doubt that Bill has a few screws loose as he walks into a convenience mart and starts arguing with the owner over the price of several items, namely how much a can of soda costs. But when he starts trashing the store after the owner tries to strike him with a baseball bat, one can see the reason for his frustration, at least in this case. When he, later on, runs afoul of two gang members and is threatened when it’s revealed that he’s on their turf, his decision to fend them off with the bat, stolen from the market, is another point that many people can likely relate to, since the frustration of being threatened for no good reason is enough to send a lot of people over the edge. At some point, Bill’s frustration becomes harder to justify, but the point is that the ills of society being dumped on the shoulders of the unwary are enough to drive anyone up the wall. Some folks simply react in different ways.
Sergeant Prendergast is the type of cop that a lot of people are used to, the old dog that’s just about to retire but is still duty-bound.
Robert Duvall usually plays a very likable character, or he plays someone that people can’t stand and still finds acclaim from others. But in this movie, he plays the good-hearted but world-weary Sergeant Prendergast, who is supposed to be retiring soon and who the department isn’t expecting a lot from at that time. But when he catches wind of the trail of damage that Foster is leaving behind him, the bloodhound in Prendergast is fired up as he begins to work the case as much as he’s allowed, eventually trailing Foster to the pier where he and Bill face off for the first and last time.
Bill’s rampage through LA is comical in some ways, but in a very dark way that reflects society and the many ills that don’t appear fixable.
There are actually funny moments in this movie that come from a very dark place but are still nice breaks that allow the drama and action to take a side seat for a moment now and then since the delivery of the actors is great enough that one can’t help but chuckle at the irony that takes place. For instance, a moment in which Bill is trying to arm and activate a rocket launcher is made a bit amusing as a young boy of color instructs him on how to use the device, which fires off a rocket into an underground chamber that explodes at the very end of the tunnel to which it’s attached. That and several other moments might make a lot of people chuckle since the ridiculous nature of the scene would be too depressing otherwise.
The ending of this movie is kind of tragic, even though one couldn’t have seen it going any other way.
The endgame of this movie is that Bill is seeking out his ex-wife and daughter since he wants to see his child for her birthday. The problem with this is that there’s a restraining order in place, and Bill’s behavior scares his wife and daughter, as it’s indicated that things didn’t end well between them earlier before the movie starts. When Prendergast catches up to him, however, Bill and the sergeant draw down on each other, with Bill drawing a water pistol and squirting Prendergast before the detective shoots him, killing Bill and sending him falling from the pier into the water. It’s a fitting ending, but one that leaves a lot of questions, not to mention an empty feeling that can’t be helped.
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