I’m sure we’ve all felt at one time or another that we’ve been pushed to the breaking point; that sometimes the common frustrations of everyday life are all a bit too much. Some of us exercise to release the tension, others take a hot bath or go for a massage, and some may kick back with a glass of red wine in front of the TV to unwind. Essentially, most of us cope with the crap and forge onward.
In Falling Down, we see what happens when a man is stretched beyond the breaking point and snaps. He’s lost his job, has gotten divorced and he cannot see his ex-wife and child because there is a restraining order against him. The film is an effective thriller that shows what happens when a man who thought he had it together and all figured out slides towards madness because after several years of hard work was told that he was no longer necessary. He woke up every morning with nothing to worry about until his sense of relevance and his personal life crumbled and he fell to pieces. We see what results when he’s pushed beyond the brink and unleashes his darkest feelings because he decides he’s not going to take it anymore.
Michael Douglas plays the man known only as D-FENS, after his vanity licence plate. He is already unhinged when he abandons his car in a freeway tie-up and sets off on foot across Los Angeles. During his walk, his frustration rages as he repays a series of random injustices that he’s experienced throughout his life. In one situation, he trashes the store of a Korean grocer who won’t give him change to use the payphone. Later, he steals a bag of guns from some punks who crash their car in a failed drive-by shooting.
In the scene stealer, D-FENS walks into a fast food joint called Whammyburger at 11:33am for breakfast. He is told by the manager, who calls him “Buddy,” that he can’t have breakfast because they stopped serving it at 11:30am. "I don't want to be your buddy," D-FENS tells the manager. "I just want breakfast." "Well, hey," says the manager, "I'm really sorry." "Well, hey, I am too," D-FENS responds in kind. Now locked and loaded thanks to the bag of firearms he stole, D-FENS pulls out a gun. The smug fast food manager who denies him breakfast is another common frustration that exacerbates the nagging civic despair D-FENS already feels. With gun in hand, he goes on to express his displeasure with the dwindling quality of customer service and food preparation, which though literal frustrations, also serve as commentaries about his feelings about the decline of, well, everything. This is a great scene in an interesting and thought-provoking film that does a good job of representing the familiar feelings of stress and upset we experience due to common frustrations, but it takes one man’s reaction to those common frustrations to the extreme.