Blu-ray Review: Falling Down

I had never seen Falling Down so when it was offered up for review I jumped at the opportunity having heard enough good things about it to attract my interest. Starring Michael Douglas and directed by Joel Schumacher, the film is a bit scattered at times and relies heavily on the audience giving in to the premise and ignoring the fact the entire film is a random series of extreme coincidences. It walks the line between serious and satire and at one point even dabbles in loony, but overall it’s a good watch even if I wouldn’t recommend you run out and buy it blind without at least seeing it once.

The film begins on the baking streets of Los Angeles and Schumacher does a fantastic job of representing a hot and claustrophobic atmosphere. Stuck in traffic, this is where we first meet William Foster (Michael Douglas) as his skin is crawling with impatience, so much so he gets out of his car and runs toward the overpass. When asked by the driver behind him where he is going he replies, “I’m going home,” and our story begins as we follow William’s path toward Venice, California and bear witness to the carnage along his way.

Yup, “carnage,” and to tell you any more would be to rob you of the opportunity to experience it firsthand. The story of William runs parallel to that of a retiring cop played by Robert Duvall who was injured in the line of duty several years back and has now decided to leave the force early. The two stories both contain hidden details that surface as the film moves on, all while societal prejudices and frustrations are confronted. Some of these confrontations involve everyday grievances you and I may have while others border on racism and personal instability. However, the film’s primary message is that of self-worth and not on violence as I am sure many will say it is.

At one point a man is seen outside a bank picketing. He was denied a loan after being told he wasn’t “economically viable.” As this man is picked up by the police and is being taken to jail he says, “Don’t forget me.” William gives him a nod marking a turning point in the film where more is revealed than is originally let on, but by the end the pieces begin to fall into place.

The character created by Douglas in this film is never a clear protagonist and even though there are moments you connect with his character and his discontent with the society he sees around him there are other moments he manages to sicken you. He is a character you don’t feel sympathy for; you don’t feel sad for him. You feel bad.

As for Warner’s new Blu-ray release of the film it looks just as great as you would expect. It is also releasing on DVD the same day, but I don’t have a copy to do a visual comparison to the 1080p Blu-ray release, but suffice to say this one satisfies. The release also comes with a Dolby TrueHD audio track, but the fact it is only a 2.0 track and not a complete 5.1 surround experience may disappoint some, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The supplemental material is rather limited, carrying a featurette titled “Deconstructing D-Fens: A Conversation with Michael Douglas,” an audio commentary and the theatrical trailer. The featurette is a decent listen, but nothing ground-breaking as Douglas merely reflects on his involvement in the film. More can be obtained by listening to the audio commentary, but that comes with a bit of an asterisk itself.

The audio commentary is listed on the back of the packaging as a commentary with Schumacher and Douglas. However, while both Douglas and Schumacher are on the track, it is a moderated commentary by an anonymous male voice as he introduces more than just those two individuals. Also included are the voices of screenwriter Ebbe Roe Smith, editor Paul Hirsch, actor Michael Paul Chan, actor Vondie Curtis-Hall, actor Frederick Forrest and “Los Angeles Times” writer Shawn Hubler. This bit of deception is a bit frustrating as it seems like a bait and switch as the two aren’t commenting on the film together and the other participants aren’t even listed.

However, the commentary does supply a satisfying amount of information about the project and does its best to remain scene specific although I have read the Douglas portion is taken from a 1993 interview, which obviously makes it a little difficult to match up with what is going on onscreen. I do have a favorite moment from the listen, even if it doesn’t really say much about the movie, but to hear Schumacher discuss how he got Douglas involved in the project and then to have him say, “It appealed to his balls,” was priceless.

Finally, you get the theatrical trailer as well as Warner’s new digi-book packaging making for a 30-page included booklet with information on the cast and crew, trivia and a brief essay. I have said it before, but the digi-book packaging is fantastic on these WB releases. They are solid cases and the inclusion of the booklet as part of the packaging is a nice touch. However, I would like it if they focused more on offering up essays and less on the filmographies of the talent involved.

Overall, I enjoyed Falling Down and I will visit it again. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is an automatic buy as it really depends on the audience’s acceptance of the circumstances. Falling Down is an absurdity of excess and it escalates throughout. There is a backroom rendezvous that will determine whether or not you are on board or have given up. If you are in until the end and stick with it then you just may have found yourself a winner.

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