Tuesday, October 9, 2018

31 Days of Dread--Day 9

Falling Down; 1993; written by Ebbe Roe Smith; directed by Joel Schumacher

Occasionally, what once passed for a conventional film when it was released can, with time, turn into something more than its creators intended. Deeper. Weirder. Scarier.

Marketed in 1993 as "the adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world," today Falling Down reads more like "the adventures of a mediocre white man at war with everything he blames for taking away his privilege."

Michael Douglas stars as the aforementioned ordinary man. In his Eisenhower-era glasses and white shirt and tie, he looks like a refugee from what he surely considers "a better time." Beginning with the film's opening scene, it's clear to 2018 viewers he sees himself as someone done wrong by an out-of-control world. 

It's probably no accident that world includes lots of people of color: the kids on a school bus, a Korean convenience store owner, a group of Latino men and women. The list goes on. (To be fair, Douglas's character is often provoked, but he definitely makes matters worse and his reactions are grossly out of proportion. He also vents on some white people, including his terrified ex-wife, but only after he's dispatched several examples of the city's ethnic populations.)

However, it's when Douglas brings a duffel bag of guns to his war against perceived injustice that the film achieves its most shocking moments. Because we live in a world in which aggrieved men shoot up public spaces on the regular, what might have been intended as "stand up and cheer for the little guy" scenes in 1993 now come across as dangerously unhinged and deadly. You simply can't watch Douglas shooting up a fast-food joint and not think of how horribly wrong it could go, and has before.

To say about Falling Down that "they just don't make 'em like that any more" is an understatement. Twenty-five years later, they just couldn't--and wouldn't dare--make 'em like that today.

Falling Down is available for streaming rental.

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