I’m not a raving fan of any film that Joel Schumacher has directed, but I also don’t dismiss his entire filmography and label him “The Devil” like some hyperbolic fanboy. I think Joel’s got big neon mainstream taste, and occasionally he pulls a movie together in a way that people dig, and he really likes to flirt with a sort of heavily art-directed darkness in his movies that is about as far from edgy as a very special episode of “Blossom.”
The real problem is that he’s one of those guys who makes movies that sound better on paper than they play when you watch them. “Falling Down” is a movie that sounds like an easy slam dunk as a livid social satire, and it works in fits and starts but never really pays off its best ideas. By making D-FENS, the main character, a psycho before the events of the film start to wear on him, they rob him of his everyman status. He is not any one of us just having a very bad day. Instead, he’s a guy who was already wired to implode, and we’re just seeing him on the day it finally happens.
I’ll say this for the BluRay transfer… it makes me deeply miss Andrzej Bartkowiak, whose cinematography here turns Los Angeles into a molten liquid Hell. Accurately reproducing the kind of swimmy heat-stroke look of this film has never been easy on home video, and this transfer is fairly remarkable. And, as seems to be the case with most of these Warner Bros. special editions, the packaging is very nice, as are the extras on the disc. If you’re a fan, you’re well-served by what they’ve done here.
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I may not think the film works as a whole, but this one gets Michael Douglas a gold star. I like him most when he makes slightly oddball choices, something he’s done throughout his career. This is Douglas at his pinched, freakshow funniest, and there are certain scenes here I would set up against anything else he’s done in his career. And even though his character is a cliche of a cliche of a joke of a stereotype, Robert Duvall hits a few grace notes, too. I just wish his half of the movie didn’t exist, because it drags things down every time the film starts to rev up a nasty head of steam. In the end, it feels like this film couldn’t quite get behind the wish fulfillment side of what it sets up, and that undercuts the movie. Damn shame. If this had just been a movie about a guy who decides that he’s not going to suffer life’s petty indignities anymore, a righteous warrior who has had enough, it could have been a cultural flashpoint. As it is, it’s a moderately okay thriller with a few scenes that really pop.
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