Falling Down

Posted on March 27, 2010

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Falling Down

(A ‘relevant movie’ review by KZ)Remember “Falling Down?” From a magic time called 1993, this movie is a must-see for everybody. It showcases how much frustration modern society can place on one person, even if unintentionally. We watch the main character Bill Foster, over the course of one really bad day. Nearly everybody he encounters wants something from him, attempts to short-change him, or denies him what he deserves. When he’s had enough, Bill starts pushing back. Many of these people are not used to giving others their way, so Bill finds it necessary to escalate the severity of his responses. After suffering a panic attack in standstill traffic on a Los Angeles freeway, Bill gets out of his car and starts walking. He had found himself faced with needless construction delays, intense heat, a shitty car, obnoxious talk radio, screaming children, family issues, and the fact that he’d lost his job recently; seemingly with no foreseeable escape. He is surrounded by many small annoyances; a plush Garfield stares at him, people around him argue, and flies pester him. The windows in his car won’t roll and the AC does not work; he is soaked with sweat. The proverbial water boils over, and Bill decides to make his own way. He walks away from his bad circumstances, abandoning his car right there on the freeway. Anxiety had gotten the best of him. From the time he started walking, everything he encountered seemed to be a hurdle intentionally placed in his way. His first stop was at a Korean-run bodega. He runs out of change to use the pay phone, so he takes a dollar inside to get more. We see the rude, dismissive clerk breaks open a fresh roll of quarters to replenish the register. With the drawer still open, he explains to Bill that he won’t make change for him unless he buys something. When Bill chooses a much-needed can of Coca-Cola, he’s charged 85 cents; not leaving him with even enough change to make his call. When he complains, the clerk throws him out. Bill refuses to go, so the man tries to attack him with a baseball bat. Bill responds by trashing the store; and coerces the guy in to charging him a reasonable price. Bill only wants to be understood. He declares that he is simply “standing up for his rights as a consumer.” He’s still a good man, even paying for his drink. He takes the bat with him and leaves the store. During the ordeal inside the store, we meet Detective Prendergast (Robert Duvall.) He is a seasoned, good-hearted, pussy-whipped Robbery-Homicide detective. Today is his last day on the job. On his way into work, he finds himself stuck in traffic behind an abandoned car. He only makes the connection later that the car he helped move out of the lane is actually Bill’s.     Next, Bill decides to stop off at an empty lot to enjoy his cold beverage and collect his thoughts. He gazes through a hole that has developed in the sole of his shoe. We realize that he’s struggling to find employment when he tears up the well-worked classified ads to line his shoe. He clearly just wants to be left alone when he is suddenly accosted by two low-rent gang-bangers who attempt to intimidate him.  They demand his briefcase as a toll, saying that he had “trespassed” on “their” property; he was also guilty of “loitering.” Bill cracks a few smart ass jokes, and tries speaking rationally to diffuse the situation. He understands the concept of respecting the turf of others, apologizes, and offers to leave. Perhaps the mismatched colors worn by this particular gang undermined their solidarity along with any credibility.  One of them produces a butterfly knife, repeating his demand. When he realizes that there’s just no talking to some people, Bill makes his move for his bat; striking both men. He refused to be strong-armed out of what was rightfully his. This guy just can’t catch a break. The would-be robber drops his knife and both beat a hasty retreat. Bill screams out in frustration, 

“I’M GOING HOME!” “CLEAR A PATH, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!” 

Bill pockets the blade and continues on his way. He finds another pay phone to call his ex-wife. Meanwhile, the gang immediately rounds up recruits.  They procures an arsenal of guns and begin to look for him. When they finally spot him, Bill is targeted for a drive-by shooting. As he talks on the phone, the car rolls up right behind him. Two of the gang members empty out submachine guns. They destroy storefronts and wound two bystanders, but Bill is miraculously unharmed. As they try to escape, the driver loses control and they have a serious car crash. Bill approaches them; he shoots one of them in the leg with his own Uzi, and takes their gym bag of with assorted guns. He then quips, “Take some shooting lessons, asshole;” and calmly walks away. As Bill continues walking, he is denied access to a sidewalk by a construction crew. This irks him, because he feels that many of the hardships he’s faced today, were caused by unnecessary, sprawling construction projects.He takes a detour through a nearby park; and is approached by an aggressive panhandler. The guy tells every story under the sun in an effort to get a handout. After resisting initially, Bill decides to give the man his briefcase. When the guy realizes that it contains nothing but a bagged lunch, he curses Bill; who keeps walking with yet another reminder of how selfish and ungrateful the world really is. Then next chapter of his journey finds Bill stopping at the local Whammy Burger for breakfast. The inept cashier and manager provoke him further by denying him breakfast, despite the fact that he missed the cutoff time by just three minutes. When he explains that “the customer is always right,” Bill is told that it isn’t their policy. As he sets his newly-acquired gym bag on the counter, we are alerted to the fact that Bill is about to lose it again. After the dickhead manager smugly tells him no one last time, Bill pulls a full auto Tec-9 from the gym bag. Now he has their attention (all he wanted was a little consideration.) An accidental discharge occurs. Bill makes small talk with patrons; an eldery woman needlessly vomits. Suddenly involved in a hostage situation, Bill decides that he’ll have lunch after all. The burger they prepare for him is smashed and unappealing, looking nothing at all like the photo on the menu board. Bill points out the discrepancy to the employees and leaves. Next, Bill stops on the street to make another phone call. He was apparently taking too long, and some douche bag waiting to use it starts yelling at him about it. To make the petty prick rethink his rude ways, Bill uses the stolen Uzi to destroy the phone booth. (Many of his violent actions are done solely to teach rude people some manners.) Next Bill stops off in an Army/Navy store; to look for a sturdy pair of boots. The proprietor of the business is a racist, homophobic Nazi. He has been listening to Bill’s antics on a police scanner all day, and immediately recognizes him. Bill explains that his actions were not racially-motivated. When Bill fails to agree with the man, the conversation goes downhill fast. The shopkeeper draws a gun and attempts to ‘arrest’ Bill. He roughs Bill up; making him break his glasses. (Again, just seconds before it happens, we get a glimpse at the anger about to boil over in Bill.)In the last second before being handcuffed, Bill stabs the guy with the knife he stole from the gangster in the beginning of the film. Bill reasserts himself, and shoots the Nazi to death with his own Beretta. After changing clothes and boots, Bill heads out with the dead Nazi’s rocket launcher and a few supplies. Upon leaving the store, Bill finds himself at another cumbersome construction project. He argues with a worker, demanding that he admit that nothing is actually wrong with the street. It takes displaying his pistol to get the man to be honest; there is nothing wrong with the street. Bill decides he’ll give them something to fix; and blows a huge crater in the road with the rocket launcher. Bill jumps a fence, and finds himself passing through a private golf course. A pair of elitist, old rich men try to make him go back the way he came. He ignores their words, but gets pissed when one of the men intentionally drives a golf ball at his head. He pulls out a shotgun and shoots their golf cart (which rolls down the hill and into a pond.) The mean old man has a heart attack. Bill asks him if it was worth it to die, just because they didn’t want to let him walk through ‘their’ area.  Hearing approaching sirens, Bill jumps another fence, and winds up at the mansion of a plastic surgeon. The groundskeeper and his family are having a cookout on the property. It’s at this point that Bill realizes they see him as the bad guy. He leaves them unharmed and goes to Venice to reunite with his estranged ex-wife and daughter on her birthday. By this time, police have connected the dots and spoken with Bill Foster’s mother. They realize that he is headed to the ex-wife and daughter. Venice cops had ignored and dismissed her fears and pleas for protection all day. After they had left, Bill arrived at the house. Throughout the movie, constantly bothering his ex-wife was Bill’s only real character flaw. His biggest motivator throughout the day was just to see his daughter; and take her a gift on her birthday. When the detectives show up at Bill’s ex-wife’s house, Bill shoots and injures Prendergast’s female partner. He runs to the nearby pier, where he knew his family would be. He confronts them. The wife was clearly scared, but the little girl was happy to see her father. Supercop (Duval) finally catches up, and the pier clears out. As police cordon off the area, the detective calmly moves in making small talk. He attempts to talk Bill down. Bill’s ex-wife sees her chance, and snatches Bill’s gun; throwing it off the pier. She and the daughter are immediately removed from the situation. Rather than entertain the notion of hoping to see his little girl from behind bars, Bill decides his fate. Claiming to have another gun, he challenges the detective to a duel. He explained that if he was killed by the police, his little girl would get the insurance money. Despite his ex-wife’s negative opinion of him, Bill did one of the noblest things a man can do; trade his life to preserve the financial well-being of a family that had shunned him. After a three-count, Bill makes his move, forcing Prendergast to shoot him. He was shot center-mass while drawing a water pistol from his coat pocket. He smirked at the detective, as if to say “no hard feelings.” Bill uttered, “I would have got ya…” before falling dead into the surf below. I’m not saying everything Bill did was right, but I understand. This film serves to remind that there is a breaking point inside each of us. If you haven’t already…Go see it. 

   

-KZ

 

   

   

 

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