Remembering ‘Falling Down’ (1993): my latest at PJMedia

If movies are to be believed — and in this exceptional case, why shouldn’t they be? — Los Angeles has been going to hell, decaying and dying, since the day they put up the Hollywood sign.

The other night, we watched Escape from L.A. (for some reason. Masochism…?) and it was all there, just as it was in Chinatown and Sunset Blvd. and Kiss Me Deadly and Grand Canyon and…

And yet, L.A. remains, albeit just barely.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from my look back at Falling Down, inspired by the pending release of Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America:

With a buzzcut you could set your clock by, white short-sleeved dress shirt, tie and wimpy pocket protector, Douglas’s iconic physical appearance in this movie – it’s been “name checked” numerous times since (see The Simpson’s ill-fated Frank “Grimey” Grimes) – was presumably styled to remind the viewer of both Bernard Goetz and Charles Whitman. (…)

People misremember Falling Down as having a higher body count than it actually does. Foster kills one despicable character in self-defense; his other “victims” are merely shook up — as is Foster himself, who doesn’t exactly retain expert control over his unwieldy weaponry. (…)Yes, Douglas’ character is a VERY angry guy. But there’s nothing terribly “conservative” about, say, complaining about the price of a can of Coke, or inherently “right wing” about bitching that fast food employees aren’t supposed to serve breakfast after a certain time.

Yes, such stringent regulations seem petty and even arbitrary, and have certainly contributed to the increase of cynicism and the general breakdown of social trust and cooperation. However, if you subtract the automatic weapons, Foster’s tantrum in the restaurant — while obviously designed to echo two still-fresh massacres at Luby’s and McDonald’s — wouldn’t be out of place in the lyrics of “Alice’s Restaurant” or the faux-hippie anthem “Signs.” (…)


Alas, I forgot to squeeze in a comparison of the “surplus store” scene in Falling Down with the pawn shop sequence in Pulp Fiction.

Another time.

PS: this is from the comments:

Like George C. Scott’s performance in “Patton” — where the negative, anti-war vibe he and Francis Ford Coppola wanted to get across somehow ended up with Vietnam-era audiences sympathizing with the title character instead of being repulsed by his hyper-militarism — what Schumacher and Douglas intended the movie to say to audiences of 1993 may not have been what it said to all of them, but the same desire to demonize conservatives that is in play today was the driving force behind the movie. That’s where the “tea party” reference comes from; Schumacher hated his title character.

Goldthwait’s movie may end up with the same sort of “stick it to the right” ethos, but given its protagonists targets are in large part creations of the culture of the left, he’s either going to have to do some incredibly annoying pretzel logic to show conservatives are behind today’s irritating pop culture, or he”s going to have to craft a totally nihilist “to hell with everybody” movie in order to avoid getting on the wrong side of the current culture wars.


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