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FALLING DOWN: A TALE OF URBAN REALITY By RICK BALDWIN

“Across the city he leaves in his wake,
A glimpse of the future a cannibal state.”-Iron Maiden

William aka “D-FENS”, Michael Douglas of Fatal Attraction (1987), is a desperate man on the road to insanity, as he struggles to balance his responsibilities of being a respectable citizen while becoming a violent product of his environment.  William, has been laid off from his job as a defense contractor, living back home with his mom, recently divorced from Beth, Barbara Hershey of The Entity (1982), who has placed a restraining order against him (due to previous violent outbursts), resulting in being kept away from his daughter.  William’s morning goes south from the get go, unleashing the monster within, when his air conditioner fails while caught in a traffic jam on a blistering L.A. freeway.  William, fed up, abandons his car in traffic and decides to walk the mean streets of Los Angeles to attend his daughter’s birthday party and “go home.”

William, thirsty from his walkabout, stops into a Korean convenience store for an overpriced can of Coke and change for a payphone.  The owner Mr. Lee, Michael Paul Chan of Arrested Development (2004), is not accommodating towards William and sends our antihero off on a heated tirade about the high prices in the store which results Lee pulling a baseball bat mid tirade.  William, offended by Lee’s action, grabs the bat and proceeds to smash and bash merchandise before exiting back onto the gritty streets with his new “attitude adjustment tool” in hand.

William, trying to fix a hole in his shoe and unbeknownst that he is now on gang turf, is threatened at knifepoint by two hoods demanding his briefcase.  Fed up with the young gang members, William attacks them with the bat and succeeds in securing their knife and procuring one more weapon for his growing arsenal.  The gang members, angry at being out-punked by the nerdish William, gather up some of their fellow delinquents to attempt a drive-by shooting on William.  This vengeful venture proves fruitless as they haphazardly shoot every innocent bystander, missing their intended target before crashing their car.  William walks over to view the roadside carnage, before shooting one of the gang members and escaping with their bag of weapons.  Not a bad score for only walking an hour.

The most humorous scene takes place when William attempts to buy breakfast at a fast food joint but is told he must order off of the lunch menu.  Though only a few minutes late for breakfast, William, now with a semiautomatic weapon that he accidently fires, holds the restaurant hostage while angrily schooling the manager about the importance of taking care of customers and selling a quality product before exiting the establishment.

William, frustrated and delusional, repeatedly calls Beth to let her know he is coming home to be with his family once more.  William, now resuming his journey, seeks a new pair of shoes in a military surplus from an inviting, and disgusting white supremacist, Nick, Frederic Forrest of Trauma (1993).  Nick shows an unhealthy fascination towards William’s behavior as he has been tracking the events on a police scanner and convinces Chilly Willy to sit tight for a spell as the fuzz has a citywide BOLO (Be on the Lookout) disseminated on him.  This alliance is short-lived, and the interaction between the two, can quiet the peanut gallery of sensitive viewers that claimed the film as being “Pro White,” due to William’s earlier targets consisting of Asians, Latinos, or Blacks.  William is an equal opportunity hater, he attacks ignorance, not color.

On the last day of his job so he can retire with his overly needy wife, Sergeant Prendergast, Robert Duvall of Colors (1988), is informed of a white male in separate violent isolated incidents popping up around the city and insists on investigating the crimes as his last hoorah.  Prendergast, while being mocked for his old age and being a pencil pusher rather than a street detective by his peers, begins investigating all leads that point to William.  Prendergast and his partner, Detective Torres, Rachel Ticotin of Total Recall (1990), uncover all of the dirt they need on William and rush to protect Beth and daughter before the weapon toting, delusional daddy makes his way back for an impending horrific homecoming.  William, now equipped with a rocket launcher, transformed from a square with a pocket protector in the morning to a militant man on a mission before dinner, with his sites on getting home no matter what the cost and mowing down anyone that gets in his way.

Falling Down (1993) is a black comedy thriller directed by Joel Schumacher of The Lost Boys (1987), with a screenplay by writer/actor Ebbe Roe Smith of Portlandia (2012).  Falling Down was met with favorable reviews by most theater goers and critics and was nominated for the prestigious Palm d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and won best film at the 1994 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.  Falling Down was met with a bit of controversy with threats of boycotts by unemployed defense contractors, South Korea, and by the Korean American Coalition in its depiction of stereotyping Koreans.  Falling Down was filmed during the 1993 Los Angeles Riots, which serves as an interesting backdrop to the film, as you sense the frustration and tension oozing from the city onto the celluloid at the time of production… film doesn’t lie.

Though Falling Down does exhibit a lot of violence, it is done in such a manner that is done out of catharsis by a normal, pushover of a guy (you and me), trying to deal with the death of the promised American dream that we were all forced fed since adolescence.  This subject is very similar to the character studies displayed in Joe (1970) and Death Wish (1974).  Falling Down does explore the injustice and hypocrisies of racism, the sins of capitalism, poverty, and corporate downsizing.  William is a man trying to deal with life in America, restoring the dream of his idyllic family and career that becomes shattered, leaving him utterly broken.  This scenario of man finally losing it due to feeling overwhelmed with the flaws in society, unfortunately happens every day in America…every stinking day.  Falling Down has touched a nerve since its release and has been referenced in The Simpsons (1989), to Iron Maiden and Foo Fighters songs, and even created into a Danish stage play in Copenhagen (I would love to see how they pull of the explosions), just to name a few.

Overall, Falling Down, is a fun, and honest analysis of the pitfalls America has made for itself.  All social systems have their shortfalls and birth sad, angry citizens in the process.  The best course of action is to address these wrongs and make them right so all citizens survive in harmony in this concrete jungle of ours.  No matter how perfect life may appear, there will always be a man on the brink of blowing his gasket out of frustration resulting in them going “postal.”  Unfortunately, this has become the reality in our society that we have reverted back to living in the Wild West.  Stay safe out there, stay frosty, and remember what legendary Chuck Norris shared, “Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth.”

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  1. TAXI DRIVER: 40 YEARS OF A NOBODY WHO DREAMS OF BEING A SOMEBODY By RICK BALDWIN – THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE

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