Friday, October 4, 2019

Man on the Edge

This is my entry in the Unemployment Blogathon hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlogii

(Forenote on the title of this entry:  I came up with the title on my own.  But afterwards I found that it was not exactly original.  The heavy metal band Iron Maiden wrote a song called "Man on the Edge" released on the album The X Factor.  Since I am not an Iron Maiden fan, I had not heard the song.  It is based on the movie, however.  I was reluctant to change the title I had come up with.  As a consolation to Iron Maiden, though, I include here the lyrics to what is a pretty decent song:

The freeway is jammed and it's backed up for miles
This car is an oven and baking is wild
Nothing is ever the way it should be
What we deserve we don't get, you see
A briefcase, a lunch, and a man on the edge
Each step he's closer to losing his head
Is someone in heaven? Are they looking down?
Nothing is fair, you look around
Falling down
Lyrics:  Blaze Bayley, Janick Gers)

 So what would it take to send you over the edge?  Losing your job? Being stuck in a traffic jam with no AC in the middle of summer?  Having an ex-wife who refuses to let you see your daughter?  Or just the fact that society in general is falling apart at the seams?

The film Falling Down gives us a look at a man who has issues with all of the above.  William Foster is not really a bad man, but he is a bit mentally unstable even before society starts to Break down the breach of his defenses.

Michael Douglas stars as "D-Fens" (the name is what he is credited as in the movie, based on his car's  license plate, but he does have a name, William "Bill" Foster).  Five years earlier Douglas had won the Oscar for his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.  He was not nominated for his role here, and I really couldn't switch places with any of the five nominees that year, but I think he does an spot-on job in the role.

The movie also stars Robert Duvall as Sgt. Prendergast, a man who is on his last day on the police force before his imminent retirement.  Duvall as Prendergast is a desk jockey, due to some event prior to the film which caused him, at the behest of his wife, to get off the streets.  He is the one who realizes there is a connection between several random incidents happen in a ghetto area of L.A.

Falling Down (1993):

It's hot.  Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) is stuck in a traffic jam.  His AC isn't working.  Finally something just snaps and he abandons his car in the middle of the road, telling a fellow frustrated driver that he is "going home."

Sgt. Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall) just happens to be in the same traffic jam.  He helps the police push Foster's abandoned car out f traffic, noting that the license plate is one of those vanity plates, with the name "D-FENS" on it.

We follow both characters as they progress through the day.  Prendergast ends up eventually at his desk in the police station, while Foster progresses across the low-rent neighborhoods of L.A.  Foster has a goal to reach the home of his ex-wife in time for his daughter's birthday party.

The first indication that something is really wrong with Foster comes early on as he tries to get change for a phone call.  (In case you are a product of the 21st century, there used to be pay phone booths were you could make phone calls...I don't know if there are any left anymore.  I haven't seen one in years.  To my American readers:  Have you seen one recently?))

The Korean store owner refuses to give Foster change, instead demanding that he buy something.  When Foster learns that his can of soda is going to cost him such a rate that will leave him with not enough change to make the phone call he initially wanted the change for he begins to rant about the injustice of the economy.  Foster relieves the storekeeper of his baseball bat that he pulled out to chase off Foster and uses it to smash several displays.

While sitting on the remains of a demolished building, Foster is accosted by two gang members who confront him about trespassing in their gang territory.  One of them pulls a switchblade, but Foster uses his newly acquired baseball bat and chases them off.  He trades the bat for the knife that the gang member dropped.

Not long after, the two gang members are cruising the streets with a couple of others in a car when they spot the offending Foster.   They attempt to perform a drive-by shooting, but only manage to either kill or wound several innocent bystanders.  And wreck their car.  Foster comes along and sees the carnage and takes their gym bag full of guns, leaving behind the knife.

Several events occur over the course of the film in which Foster becomes increasingly agitated over the state of affairs in society.  The most impressive scene (and one in which I can relate) is when he walks into a fast food restaurant wanting breakfast, only to be told that they are only serving lunch menu items now.  They stopped serving breakfast at 11:30.  (It's 11:33, according to Foster's watch.)

(I had a similar incident happen at a McDonald's some years back.  I wanted breakfast and because it was 5 minutes past the breakfast menu, they refused to sell me breakfast.  I, however, did not pull out a gun at my frustration.  I just went elsewhere, where I found a place that would serve me a breakfast.)

Back at the station, Prendergast is dealing with certain events that come up and putting two and two together eventually draws a connection to the abandoned car, the harassed storekeeper, the gangland shooting and the to-do at the fast food restaurant.  All the while dealing with his own connection to instability with a wife (Tuesday Weld) who is insistent that he come home and forget about his last day at work.

Prendergast runs into a bit of a brick wall because no one else will believe that the events are interconnected.  No one except his confidante in the force, Det. Sandra Torres (Rachel Ticotin).  With the help of Torres however, Prendergast ends up on the trail of Foster, whom he determines is trying to get to the home of his ex-wife.

A final confrontation between Foster and Prendergast occurs on the pier near the ex-wife's home.  And its not going to go down easy, although Foster can't believe that he is the "bad guy".  After all all he wanted to do was see his daughter and give her a birthday present.

I have to admit I can relate to Foster on some level.  He isn't really a bad guy.  After all, he only really kills one person in the film and that is a guy that most of us probably wouldn't feel much compassion for in the first place, whether or not we can agree to the self-appointed execution of him by Foster.  Really, Foster is just a man who has become disgusted with the way society seems to be crumbling around him.  He just takes it to another level that most of us would not.

The film got a lot of good reviews at the time it came out, although there were a few dissenting views.  Most of those, as you can probably guess, disparaged the vigilante theme of the movie.  One can't help but think of parallels between it and Death Wish, although I think Paul Kersey kept his head for the most part in that film, even if he did kill more people.

Well folks, time to fire up the old Plymouth.  Fortunately, my AC works.  Drive home safely.



  1. I haven't seen this since its release, but it does come to mind often. I really liked the sense of the cop characters played by Robert Duvall and Rachel Ticotin; the relationship felt real.

    1. Even without Steve's banner I would have thought of this movie first. I only saw it in the theater myself before I got ready to do this blogathon, but I remember many scenes from it. Thanks for reading.

  2. Love your review - when this is shown in Finland, the Finnish translates as "A Bad Day".

    1. THat would be a pretty bad day... Thanks for reading.

  3. Boy, I'd have to actually see this movie to determine if I could feel any sympathy for this guy. Vigilantes just don't do it for me. In any case, thanks for contributing this to the blogathon!

    1. I'm not sure if what I feel is "sympathy". But I can relate to his frustration. I get annoyed with much of the same things. I just never wanted to go on a rampage because of it. Thanks for reading.


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