A sweltering day, a traffic jam on the highways of Los Angeles, and a man who is losing everything he loved — this is the scenario presented in 1993’s Falling Down which has newly arrived on Blu-Ray.
Michael Douglas plays the main character Bill Foster or D-FENS (his license plate), a defense worker in L.A. who has lost his job. The stresses of his life and his obsessive personality have also lost him his wife, house, and child to divorce. Sitting in his car during a road stoppage on an exceptionally hot day, Foster decides he has had enough and leaves his car behind. "I’m going home" is all he says to the other commuters as he leaves.
This is the start of his ever-downward spiraling journey as he travels on foot trying to reach his home. Foster is obviously a damaged man — his quick bursts of anger, indignant rage, and confused guilt are a clear demonstration of this. As he travels he attacks a Korean store owner, confronts gang members, holds up a fast food restaurant just to get breakfast, and continues to descend into further chaotic situations.
Foster’s outlook is certainly shared by many people. Why do we pay higher and higher prices? Why is road work done unnecessarily during rush hour? Why can we not feel safe walking through a park whenever we want? We would react differently (I hope), but Foster has lost his grip, his patience and his willingness to take what the world gives him.
Shadowing Foster’s descent is a soon to be retired Detective Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall). Prendergast pieces together that Foster is the one causing all the chaos in L.A. and pursues him. Prendergast is committed to protecting Foster’s wife and child and also to try and stop Foster’s rampage through L.A. Prendergast has his own concerns, with his paranoid and nagging wife being the reason he is retiring early.
Prendergast has a much more rational take on the situation and is a stark contrast to Foster. While Foster is manic, Prendergast is calm. He speaks with care and moves with control. Robert Duvall adds much to the role and the movie with his understated but quality acting. Michael Douglas is excellent in this film as well; he brings an intensity to Foster that few actors could accomplish. He takes an at times negative character and makes him an anti-hero who has us sympathizing when he says, “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?”
Falling Down is a pivotal movie of its age in light of all the turmoil L.A., and in fact the United States, has gone through. The movie is a poignant and dark look at the trials we face as ordinary people and how we simply accept what is given to us. Director Joel Schumacher is able to take this subject matter and make it interesting and compelling for us to watch. Schumacher has had an inconsistent track record, but in this film he uses his actors and strong script to craft a terrific film for us to watch.
Warner Brothers continues the wonderful presentation method of giving us a deluxe digibook case but for some reason the movie, audio, and extras are stuffed into a BD-25 single-layer Blu-ray. This version is based on a new master and the transfer is competent, but not exceptional.
While black levels are muted, resulting in muddled shadows and awkward transitions, the color palette is actually very strong. Skin tone and other colors come across very well and fine detail is represented clearly. Drops of sweat, the cracks in Foster's glasses, and signs are very sharp and add a depth to the film that could have been lost with the slightly weak black levels.
The transfer has a nice veneer of film grain to it but there is some noticeable edge enhancement and film damage that crops up from time to time. Being a 16-year-old film and not a huge budget release, Falling Down looks quite good all things considered.
Surprisingly Falling Down does not have a 5.1 mix. Instead Warner Brothers gave us a lossless Dolby TrueHD Stereo mix. Having watched many, many Blu-rays, I found it quite disconcerting to have a new transfer not extend audio to the center and rear speakers. Having said that, the audio, while limited, is handled quite well on this Blu-ray release.
Dialogue is handled very well in the mix and is not overshadowed by the music soundtrack. Despite being a stereo track, ambiance is actually present and adequate; overall the mix is competent and perfectly workable. It bears noting that this was a stereo movie, and choosing to retain the original soundtrack is not necessarily a bad thing.
Falling Down is presented in Warner Brothers' amazing digibook format and the book content is quite nice if a little basic. While the digibooks are quite nice for collectors, it is too bad that the actual supplements are very minimal and the same you would see on DVD releases.
- Audio Commentary with Joel Schumacher and Michael Douglas: A very nice if slightly sporadic commentary track. Schumacher talks for most of it and discusses his work on the project, the shoot, and the relevance of the story. Douglas does not talk as much, but has some great comments on his character, the director, and working with the other cast.
- Deconstructing D-Fens (SD, 10 minutes): A short video interview with Michael Douglas discussing his take on the character and how he approached the role.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes)
The Final Word
Falling Down is a dark look at our society and how one man reacts to the pressures in his life. Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall bring us into their characters and make this a better movie then it would have been with less capable actors. The weak supplements and average transfer prevent this from being a must have Blu-ray release.