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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

The briefcase is unimportant, like Pulp Fiction
And all the king's knights couldn't put him back together. Falling Down is about a man who's life has got to the point that climbing up the stairs is simply not worth it anymore. It is also a film about dream-fulfillment, a fantasy lived out by the main character, who deals with all the annoyances of modern day life with a great deal of violence that we as people in a normal society never do because of the consequences. It's also a film about a cop who is one day from retirement, and everyone tells him that he should go home, because you know what happens to cops one day from retirement. Surprisingly he lives. Also this is directed by Joel Schumacher, the guy who did Batman Forever, and Batman and Robin, amazingly this film is actually good.

The film begins with a traffic jam, and the traditional frustration that occurs from it. Much horn honking and angry words exchanged but all to no avail. At a certain point our protagonist, Bill, decides that enough is enough, and leaves his car with nothing but his briefcase, which he guards religiously for the first half of the film. This is a problem for our other protagonist who comes in the form of a cop on the cusp of retirement, who just wants a quite day in his office. What actually happened was probably the most interesting day in both of their lives. This abandoning of the traffic jam is just the first in a number of incidents about wish fulfillment, I'm sure anyone who has waited in traffic for any significant amount of time has wanted to just walk away.

I'm not actually sure where  he was going at the beginning of the film, given that he had lost his job a month previous. I guess he was going elsewhere, as you sometimes need to do, but he got fed up with life. The first target of violence is when he goes to a store and discovers a coke costs 85 cents. That is far too much, so he takes a baseball bat to all the 'expensive' products in the store including aspirin which costs $4! Oh no, far too much. After his little attempt at anarchy he pays 50 cents for his soda and leaves to go use a payphone. First he decides to take a rest on some stairs. Unfortunately these stairs are in a gang's territory, and he is accosted by two Mexicans, who he subsequently beats with his bat, and steals their butterfly knife.

I think Bill's last line is perhaps his most telling, "I'm the bad guy?"  All he wanted to was to go home and see his family, unfortunately his ex-wife has a restraining order against him. He's not okay with this though, and seeks out some sort of solace in the casual destruction he creates. Throughout the film he shoots up a phone booth because someone complained about him taking too long, almost shoots up a fast food joint because they stopped serving breakfast, kills a racist homophobic sexist Nazi, and finally gives a heart attack to a rich golfer. He tries so hard to right the wrongs of the world in his own unique way, but does nothing but create needless destruction. The best intentions eh?

So is the ending happy? No, our protagonist dies and is not redeemed, even in death. No matter what he would be branded the bad guy, though he never meant to kill anybody, he just wanted to go home to his family. I suppose the question one must ask is is it a good film? Yes, I suppose it is. It's shot well, has some decent characters and you root for the protagonist in his desperate quest, and it's a decent fantasy film, imagining all the daily annoyances can just be blown away. Alas at the end all that happens is death, but that's alright, because though his life has fallen down (and that is what happens in his death) he still lives as he wanted, if only for a brief period of time.

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