In the aftermath of Batman & Robin, the history books feel like they’ve been slightly rewritten where director Joel Schumacher is concerned. Whereas once his films were quite well regarded, the news of a new project with him at the helm is increasingly greeted with jeers. Now granted, the man has his fair share of duffers to his name: his two Batman films, Flawless, Phantom Of The Opera and Phone Booth are all on a list of films that I’ve no intention of ever sitting through again.
But what about Flatliners? The Lost Boys? The Client? A Time To Kill? What about Tigerland? The fact that he pretty much gave both Julia Roberts and Colin Farrell their big break (or, in the case of the former, at least a big break)?
And what about Falling Down? In 1993, this was a film that was tossed around to an extent in the media, and deconstructed with abandon. It was a genuine headline-grabber, and a film that arguably gave its star, Michael Douglas, his best leading role since Wall Street. Heck, it’s hard to think of a better one he’s had since.
Douglas played the man we come to know as D-FENS, who finally has enough of the frustrations of day to day life. This becomes apparent through something as simple as sitting in a traffic jam, and then, ultimately, getting out of his car. It’s a finely-directed sequence, and kicks off the first half of the film, where Falling Down is arguably at its strongest. Fed up of buying a burger that looks nothing like the picture? So’s D-FENS. Fed up of paying over the odds for a canned drink? Then he’s your man. Albeit, as it turns out, quite a violent one.
There’s not actually a particularly involved narrative to the film, and it’s arguably at its weakest when it tries to link in talk of D-FENS’ child, and his ex-wife. It’s on far surer footage when Robert Duvall appears on screen, though, given that he’s the foil here for Douglas’ character, or when we follow the lead character through the seemingly random series of encounters that continue to raise his heckles. Furthermore, there’s a sense of unpredictability to the film that, even more than 15 years on, still holds water.
It’s far from a perfect beast. The last act, as Schumacher wraps up his story, is comparably weak, for instance. Yet it’s a film that still stands up really very well, not least because its relevance to society doesn’t seem to have dwindled at all.
As for the disc extras, you get a patchwork commentary that brings Schumacher and Douglas together, with other contributions as it goes on. It’s not bad, either, and I’ve actually got quite a lot of time for Schumacher’s commentary tracks. There’s enough interesting discussion here to make it worth a spin. You then get an old interview with Michael Douglas, which is sadly just too short. It runs to around 10 minutes, and the star talks about the gestation of the project, and the character of D-FENS, and what you get is quite interesting.
Then, sadly, you just get a trailer on top of those, which makes for a depressingly slight collection of features.
The picture quality is a notable improvement on my old DVD, although it does have one or two moments where it looks a little too soft, and betrays its age. The audio is quite limited too, hardly presently an encompassing sound stage.
But the film remains divisive, relevant and interesting. Falling Down was a controversial film on its original release, and time has done little to dampen that. For much of the first half at least, it’s a gripping drama, powered by an excellent central performance. And, we suspect, this is as good as it’s ever going to look or sound, too.
The Film:The Disc:
Falling Down is out on Blu-ray now.