Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1993, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Falling Down, Joel Shumacher’s story of a man who says ‘fuck it’, and goes on a rampage through LA.
Sales: 3. Do you go 4 here? It made around double its budget, but it was far outside the Top 20 Grossing movies for the year. That feels like a three to me. However, it did reach number 1 in the US Box Office for its first couple of weeks, so if you care strongly about initial audiences, then you could bump this higher. Of course, it dropped off quickly.
Critical Consensus: 4. While the moral complexity of the film, or perhaps more accurate to say the moral ambiguity, has always been a point for discussion by critics, consensus has always remained strong. The cast and the direction have been lauded, the script has taken a bit more of a beating as time has moved on due to the perceived racism and possible appeals to violence therein, but general consensus remains that it is a bold, violent, and funny satire on 90s society.
Director: 4. Schumacher had an impressive run from 85 to 95, making no less than 8 films. It’s a toss up between this and The Lost Boys as his best overall film and here he continues his use of setting, of soundtrack, of weather to heighten what’s already in the script. It’s stylish but not stylized and is ultimately played out like a futile tragedy rather than the rebellion emboldening statement some make it out to be.
Performances: 4. Michael Douglas is excellent in the lead, ably followed around by a game Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Rachel Ticotin, and Tuesday Weld.
Characters: 3. It’s all about D-Fens, who is not, at least on the day presented, a very nice man. Sure he’s pissed that he’s out of work, divorced, late, his life is going nowhere, his expectations of the world aren’t being met, but does that mean he can go on a rampage? He’s supposed to be an everyman, at least for the men of the world who are angry at their lot in life, but taken to extremes. Depending on your POV, those extremes may only be slight.
Cinematography: 4. LA is so burned into our minds thanks to a hundred years of film and TV that it’s difficult to present it in an interesting way. It looks here just as it looked on news reports of the riots – an urban wasteland, brimming with chaos and only the facade of oases to make us think it’s some sort of paradise. The use of the sunlight and warmth is oppressive and hints that it’s not only this individual who is about to explode, but that the entire city could erupt at any minute.
Writing: 3. I’d love to go four here because the script is funny, and in my younger days I probably would have gone higher. But time moves on and attitudes change – there’s no getting away from the fact that parts of the script, intentionally or not, can be and have been co-opted by certain wings of society who would hold the movie up as a plan of action rather than a satire.
Plot: 3. At its core it’s very simple – it’s a classic ‘man wants to get home’ story. Regular glancers will know that that may be my favourite type of story. It’s a road movie mostly on foot. It’s simply a man trying to get from A-B, but he keeps being blocked on his journey and growing ever more enraged with the world.
Wardrobe: 4. It’s so simple, yet so effective. You think of this movie, and you immediately see Michael Douglas in his cheap shirt and trousers, with his briefcase.
Editing: 3. I’m not sure I’m ever going to give more than a 3 in this category.
Make up and Hair: 4. Again, very simple, but manages to be iconic. Which earns it the extra point.
Effects: 3. Not a movie filled with visual effects, but the practical work on the gunplay and explosive side are all solid.
Art and Set: 3. Compliments the Cinematography.
Sound And Music: 4. While the score itself isn’t overly tuneful or memorable, it is eerie and effective within the context of the film, and all of the other associated sounds help to build the paranoid and oppressive atmosphere.
Cultural Significance: 4. It’s on the outskirts of Cult territory in that it has all the attributes of a cult movie, except with a big name cast and director, and is marginally more known and seen. That said, the movie has had a cultural reach beyond its means, particularly in the music scene where many bands and artists have taken inspiration from it. That mirror of culture, The Simpsons, has also made reference to it.
Accomplishment: 3. I don’t feel this warrants higher than a 4 – it’s the sort of movie a lesser director may make with lesser known stars, but has been given the Hollywood treatment. It’s something of a throwback to films of the Dirty Harry and Death Wish movies in their outlook, but it’s not a strict revenge movie or cop against crime movie. It does elevate a simple idea though.
Stunts: 3. It’s not strictly an action movie, or a thriller, or a drama, but some Venn Diagram middle point. There is action but it’s on a small scale, and is more about the sudden abrupt outbursts, like how Takeshi Kitano would do things once upon a time.
Originality: 4. I went back and forth between 3 and 4 on this. It’s not the most original idea – we’ve seen angry man movies, we’ve seen trying to get home movies etc. But it’s the merging of these ideas, the positioning of the story in a modern day, recognizable, cosmopolitan warzone, and making the lead character conflicted and one who seems genuinely unsure of how to even exist anymore when his idea of how the world should be no longer exists.
Miscellaneous: 3. Nothing worthy enough to get me up to a 4. I love the poster.
Personal: 5. On another day if I was being more critical I’d go down to a 4, but I love it.
Total Score: 71/100.
Let us know your scores in the comments!