From "Flatliners" to "8MM" to "Phone Booth," Joel Schumacher may not be batting a thousand, but he sure is making a positive and influential splash. I sure as hell enjoy the man's work. Even as a person, he is so idiosyncratic that you can't help but gravitate toward him. I applaud you, Mr. Schumacher, not for your more recent work, but for making Falling Down; one of the most entertaining and underrated movies I have lived to witness, ranking in my book, if not number one, than number one and a half amongst the greatest films ever made. I've seen the movie twenty plus times in the past year or so, and I am completely engaged for all one hundred thirteen minutes. Suffice it to say, the replay value never wears off. Now that I have your attention, let us venture into the plot, which distinguishes this work of art as a God amongst men.
"D-Fens"; a bleak, ubiquitous recurrent verse that is first introduced on the protagonist's license plate, and then lends itself to a developing theme. A self-described American, "standing up for [his] rights as a consumer," William Foster (Douglas), later dubbed "D-Fens" in accord with his trademark plate, is a missile engineer at a defense plant in Los Angeles. This "overeducated, under skilled, or perhaps the other way around," defense worker is sick to the pit of his stomach with the status quo, the current state of affairs. Taking matters into his own hands, or perhaps through a knee-jerk reaction, Mr. D-Fens makes his way from Hollywood to Venice, the residence of his overly paranoid ex-wife and little girl, where he plans an unexpected reunion, despite the restraining order against him, foreshadowing his propensity for violence. Traversing the impoverished "gang-land" districts of L.A., D-Fens is cornered by anyone looking to take advantage of a man adorning a white collared shirt and tie. In a chain of the most inventive, sometimes comedic, and yet altogether entertaining episodes, D-Fens makes a point of overreacting – with brute force and an arsenal of weapons – to some of the more frivolous annoyances and inconveniences each and every one of us faces morning, noon, and night, from inflated prices, to inconsiderate proprietors, to unnecessary road construction, to that eye-gouging policy of generic fast food franchises to discontinue the breakfast menu by an unreasonably early time, and then deny food to paying customers only minutes after the expiration. Right on, D-fens!
Some of you may still be posing the question, "Why is this movie so captivating?" I would hope not, though if the tactfully crafty plot leaves you thirsting for more, then you are probably insatiable. However, the film has much more to offer. In a manner very much unlike "Heat," "Falling Down" follows the sheriff and his bad guy. Detective Prendergast ( Duvall), working against the friction of his borderline insane wife, a whole department of maliciously sarcastic police officers, who never let him forget that he is a "desk-case," and the unbelievable antics of a vigilante, is just trying to survive his last day on the job, and the superstitions surrounding it. This shouldn't be hard for a "paper-pusher." On the flip side of the coin is the trapped rat that we begin to sympathize with, that we begin to rally behind, as he sticks it to the man, to the faceless corporate America, chiseling away at the pandemic of evils that we overlook out of habit, yet still feel a subconscious twinge of pain when they cross our paths.
Falling Down comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Brothers, and the film has never looked better. While the 1080p transfer isn't amongst the best I've seen, the image here is leaps and bounds better than its DVD counterpart, which I always found rather "hot" looking and overly compressed. The Blu-ray corrects all of those problems, offering a well-balanced colors and a much more natural and pleasing quality to the fleshtones as well as the overall image. The level of detail is impressive, albeit inconsistent. The same can be said of the black levels, which range from lush and deep to a sort of muddy gray. Overall, though, the picture is quite solid, and fans of this underappreciated film will very pleased.
The stereo Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is a bit of a letdown in that it's...well...stereo! Still, this ol' stereo track serves the film nicely, offering solid bass response, crisp highs, and, most importantly, crystal clear dialogue throughout. It's not going to wow audiophiles, but, in the context of the film, it works. It's just an odd thing to see on a Blu-ray, given that virtually every catalog title I've seen has at least boasted a 5.1 mix.
Falling Down comes in a 32-page, full color Digibook format, which features bios and photographs from the film, as well as production information and credits. Supplemental materials are all carryovers from the DVD release, including a commentary track featuring Schumacher and Douglas, a short interview with Douglas called Deconstructing D-Fens (SD), and the film's theatrical trailer (SD). The packaging screams "special edition", but the extras here make for slim pickin's.
Beyond documenting the mental deterioration of a "madman," this film delivers on every conceivable level, boasting another incredible performance by Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall as the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino of "Falling Down." Like an independent film, it relies heavily on substance, not to mention cinematography, both of which are abounding. It also never wears out its welcome. There has never been and never again will there be anything like "Falling Down," a title that has earned the top shelf of my heart. Without consideration to your genre of preference, I will assure you that this is a movie for anyone (not to be confused with a "family film" which is appropriate for everyone). Put simply, this is the tale of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world.
Falling Down is an exemplary film saddled with a merely average Blu-ray presentation, but fans of the movie will definitely want to consider the upgrade if only for the substantial bump up in the quality of the sound and image.