Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Falling Down.”
The Movie: “Falling Down”
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey
Director: Joel Schumacher
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) An unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society, begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73 percent
Froemming: Last week, we took down Ryan Reynolds and — oddly enough — Ted Kennedy in our review of the hokey comic book movie “Green Lantern.” This week, I felt like we should head back to a time when when white dudes started to want to make America great again — you know, being a racist jerk wanting back a time when a can of Coca Cola was less than $.85 because they didn’t understand how inflation works — the 1990s!
“Consumer Reports: The Movie” “Falling Down,” a movie that examines the philosophy of The Joker in that all it takes is one bad day for someone to lose their (REDACTED).
Now Brown, while I terrorize a Whammy Burger joint for their stupid breakfast hours, why don’t you give us your first thoughts.
Brown: How the (REDACTED) did Joel Schumacher make this movie when he gave us Bat-Nipples and Bat-Asses?!
Look, we rag on Trump a lot in the JOE-DOWN, but oh boy, this movie is how I envision Republican voters in the midwest envision Los Angeles.
Also, with the way Michael Douglas looks and acts in this movie, I thought that CyberDyne started making T-800s that looked like Hank Hill.
Jokes aside, I was excited for this pick. “Falling Down” was a movie I’ve never seen but have really wanted to. So, now I had a reason to finally watch it.
And now, I’m… kind of confused. But we’ll touch on that.
While I find some new boots, you get us started, Froemming.
Froemming: It’s LA. Traffic jams are clogging the freeways. Tensions are high. The heat is unbearable. And one man decides to say (REDACTED) it, and just up and ditch his vehicle in the middle of this mess.
And having had to endure traffic jams on 94 on my way from St. Cloud to Minneapolis, I totally get this sentiment. We’ve all fantasized pulling this off.
Brown: Hell, REM made a music video around that whole premise.
Froemming: This man is William Foster, and you know he is unhinged because he has a vanity plate on his car that says “D-Fens.” I stand by my prejudice of people with such license plates: They are unhinged maniacs and this movie just proves my point.
Brown: It wasn’t even just the customized plate. This whole traffic jam was filled with people I can’t stand. There’s the bumper stickers, where I go with the logic of comedian Demetri Martin: bumper stickers are like a little sign that says “Hey, let’s never hang out.” His AC is also out, which would cause me to go into homicidal rage.
Then there’s the person with the Garfield plushy on the window. Frankly, I’d like to think this whole day was Foster’s Garfield-Minus-Garfield madness.
Also in the traffic jam is Pendergast, a LA cop who is regulated to a desk job for reasons that aren’t quite explained to us. It’s his last day and after helping push Foster’s car off the road probably realized he’s too old for this (REDACTED).
Froemming: I’ll never tire of the retiring cop trope in the movies we watch.
We see right away that a lot of the cops in this movie are just as big of assholes as William is. Pendergast is really the only likeable person in this movie. Well, we sort of root for William for the first 75 percent of this movie, but that begins to fade as we see he has always been a monster.
Brown: I was OK with him until he walked into the convenience store and started ranting about the Korean clerk not speaking English.
Yeah, not siding with the blatant racist there, even if he has a point about the price of Cokes.
Froemming: So yes, Bill ditches his car and we see him making creepy phone calls to his ex-wife where he says nothing and it freaks her out. It freaked me out. But he needs more change so he can terrorize via payphone, so he heads to the Korean man’s shop, where he expects the guy to break a dollar for him.
I’d prefer the changer scenario was more like this:
But no. We get a crazy white guy smashing up this poor guy’s shop, wanting the prices to be what he paid in the 1960s while demanding the man pronounce English words the way he does.
Just give him a MAGA hat and a tiki torch and Bill fits perfectly in 2018.
So he haggles the guy down to a cheaper price for the can of Coke like he is Mac from “It’s Always Sunny” buying a pear for Charlie in the Italian Market.
Brown: His haggling turns all racist and violent when he steals a club from the Korean merchant and starts smashing up the place because Foster has no (REDACTED) clue that one man is not responsible for inflation. Like, how did this dude react when America had the gas crisis? Hell, if he were alive today, how many Super Americas would he thrash when gas hits $4 in California?
But no, harass the foreign man in your area instead of the swamp-dwellers in Washington.
Froemming: Bill is like a racist Ralph Nader on steroids. He is out for the consumer, sure, but he goes way overboard. Like if Nader had responded to cars that are lemons with a machine gun instead of a highly regarded consumer’s rights book.
Brown: After this fun excursion into assault, Foster is a little tired, so he rests on a hill that turns out is gang territory. A couple gang bangers don’t like this and threaten Foster and he gets all “Gran Torino” on them and whacks the pair with the club. And after this kerfuffle, Foster gets a butterfly knife for his trouble.
This may as well be a video game. I’m shocked after beating the hoodlums, there wasn’t an autosave emblem in the corner of my screen.
Froemming: Oh yeah, this movie felt like I was playing “Grand Theft Auto.” Also, I dunno, but this movie made me never want to hassle some white dude with a Hank Hill haircut and dressed in a business-casual outfit. I might get clubbed for eyeballing him funny.
With his energy back after beating two youths with a bat, Bill heads to another payphone, where he scares the bejesus out of his ex-wife by calling her again and saying he is coming home. Not since Michael Myers came home has that saying been this terrifying.
Brown: Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was a case of Foster not doing the DENNIS system correctly. When you’re divorced, you shouldn’t try to Nurture Dependence.
Froemming: This movie kinda shows why victims do not come forward with emotional abuse. His ex, Beth, gets ridiculed by the cops because Hank just terrorized her with threats, never actually hit her. Jesus.
But our little gang bangers decide to not just lick their wounds and call it a day. No, they decide to get a car and find our nerdy anti-hero so they can pull a drive-by on him.
They try, but the hit everything and everyone around him, but miss Bill completely.
Brown: Insert your Storm Troopers joke here. It’s too easy.
So OK, Korean shop, chalk that up to a racist having a bad day. The gang thing, self-defense. Now, we get the glimpse of the monster Foster is. After the failed drive-by, the car crashes and these gangsters are all dead, save for one who cannot stand.
What does Foster do? Why, he shoots the guy in the back of the leg and takes their stash of guns in a gym bag, all without any real empathy.
Froemming: Why would anyone show empathy toward someone who just tried to kill them? TWICE!
Brown: I’m pretty sure the car crash was punishing enough. Shooting a dude who can’t stand is a bit of overkill. This isn’t “Zombieland” where you have to double tap.
Froemming: It’s a life lesson. Like in “Arrested Development.”
And that’s why, you never pull a drive-by.
Brown: Again, it was like watching Hank Hill on the edge of being a psycho killer after one bad day of selling propane accessories.
Now, what does a normal man do after firing a bullet into a man’s Achilles’ heel and taking a stash of guns? He needs a little fast food breakfast.
Only, he arrives at this place three minutes past when they stop serving breakfast. So, Foster turns into Homer Simpson when the Tonys come on.
Froemming: This is perhaps the most infamous scene from the movie. I will share it here.
Now, I must admit. I have been in this situation before. I once ordered a Taco Bell breakfast right at the time they were ending it. I paid, the menu flipped and the kid behind the counter said they couldn’t make my order and I had to substitute it with the lunch menu.
I don’t agree with what Foster does here, but I get it.
As the clip shows, Foster goes (REDACTED) bonkers, and slowly realizes he is terrorizing these people and agrees to the lunch menu — only to find his squished burger looks nothing like the one on the menu. And he loses it again.
Again, I don’t agree with what Foster is doing here, but I get it.
Brown: You’d get better results today with a Tweet to the company using a witty GIF over Foster’s holdup.
Due to the trail of carnage Foster is leaving in his MAGA wake, Pendergast is seeing a pattern. However, his co-workers are a bunch of snotty, avocado toast-eating Millennials who disregard the older Pendergast as they expect him to just run the clock out on his final day. The only one who seems to think of Pendergast as a human being was Det. Torres, whom I thought was beautiful. Also, like her, I like to take my coworkers out for Mexican food for lunch.
Now Froemming, were you as conflicted as I was seeing Robert Duvall play a cop after all the “Godfather” movies?
Froemming: Nah, he played the role of the veteran cop really well. He played a few of them during this time, so his role as Vito’s consigliere didn’t really color my view of the character.
Torres is called to the Whammy Burger, where apparently Foster wasn’t Lovin’ It, and lets Pendergast know the suspect matched the description of the store incident.
At this time, Foster wanders into a Army surplus store run by a Nazi, looking for new boots because he has a giant hole in his shoe.
Between this movie and “Pulp Fiction,” these second-hand stores in LA are all run by perverts and Nazis, if I am to believe Hollywood.
Brown: This gay-bashing scene bummed me out since I watched this movie shortly after seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and reliving Freddie Mercury’s life.
Froemming: After the Nazi shoos off two gay men with slurs and being a general ass to them, he brings Foster into the back room, where all the “cool” stuff is.
His “cool” stuff seems to be Nazi paraphernalia that I imagine he bought from Dennis and Dee’s grandfather, flags, knives, old bombs, ect.
But Foster isn’t a Nazi, so the guy goes off on him. Tries to strangles him. This, I suspect, is why his store lacks customers if this is how he treats people. Homophobic slurs and trying to kill people doesn’t help with the Yelp reviews.
Brown: At least his second-hand store doesn’t have a gimp in the basement? Yeah, no, this is somehow worse than that.
This scene was 2018 politics incarnate: A Nazi tries to curry favor with the surly older gentleman who wants America to go back to the good ol’ days of the 1960s before hippies and Vietnam.
And while I cheered seeing a Nazi get got, it’s like being a resident in Japan during a Godzilla monster movie: No matter who wins, we all lose.
So the movie never explicitly says it, but does Foster have PTSD? He’s going on this rampage. He’s got a bunch of Armed Forces commendations at his mother’s house. He goes into full Army fatigues after killing our resident Nazi.
Legit, my thought is that this is like John Rambo getting dropped into post-Rodney King LA instead of the Oregon wilderness. I imagine all of Foster’s daily conversations go like this:
Froemming: I thought those military photos were like his dad or something? I didn’t get that he himself was in the military, but I might have missed that.
Brown: That might be the case. I legit don’t know.
Froemming: So Prendergast is connecting the dots and by remembering this all started with the car with the dumb vanity plates, he finds out that Foster is the guy terrorizing Los Angeles. This is when we find out more about Foster, aside from his possible military background. He lives with his mother, like a #SnowFlake Millennial, he has lost his job at a defense plant.
I need to backtrack just a bit here. There is a moment when Foster is wandering around and we see a bank and an African-American fellow protesting it, because he is not “economically viable.” The man is dressed just like Foster and even has the same goofy haircut. This sort of symbolizes that Foster is not alone in this new America: Over-educated, under-skilled and economically unviable. There are many like him, only they are not wandering the streets with a duffle bag full of guns.
Brown: There are few looks that are more dorky than a man in a short-sleeve button-up shirt with a tie. The only thing I can think of is dudes in suits wearing baseball hats like in the NBA draft.
Froemming: When I visited you in Willmar, dressed in khakis and a golf shirt, I must have looked like a doofus, huh? It’s called “work clothes” Brown!
Anyway, before Joe “The Fashion Police” Brown interrupted, we now now Foster is unemployed and living with his mom like he’s George Costanza, and that he is divorced and his wife has a restraining order against him.
His mother is afraid of him, alluding to him being crazy and whatnot. Yeah, he has a briefcase with only a sandwich and banana in it. The man is unhinged.
Brown: Something we didn’t touch on that I found to be the oddest/most racist scene in the movie. So Foster gets the bazooka and when he decides he wants to use it to blow up the fake road construction, he doesn’t know how it works.
But, a young black kid comes by and knows immediately how a bazooka works? Like, he gives the excuse of seeing a history show about it. But holy (REDACTED), the idea that we’re going to have a young black kid know how a weapon of war is used is… just another level of racism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since “Con-Air.”
Froemming: The streets of LA were a lot tougher than I ever thought.
Foster’s ex, Beth, is having one hell of a day. The police play down her fears and tell her if she wanted more help, next time vote for a pay increase to the PD, which is the worst way to sell your cause.
And Foster is on his way, dressed in military getup, and we come to what I laughed pretty hard at.
He storms into a private lawn and yells about the walls and security fence preventing him from getting through. Dude, you are the reason those things are there. But it turns out the people there are just the caretaker and his family having a BBQ. And he just terrorizes them too when he hears the police sirens. He even gets mad at them for thinking he wants to hurt them. Dunno why they would think that, Foster, you just HAVE A GUN POINTED AT THEM.
Brown: At one point Foster breaks onto a golf course and goes onto a diatribe about how terrible golf is. This is the most I ever agreed with this sociopath on the warpath to see his child.
Foster has worked his way to Venice and is just outside his wife’s house, where he runs in just as Beth and the little girl Adele (who’s birthday is the day of all this) are running out to the nearby pier.
As Foster stews in his insanity by watching home movies, Pendergast and Torres are closing in, culminating in a brief gunfight that sees Torres wounded in the yard.
Froemming: OK, so the home movies. Wow. They show him freaking out on his infant daughter for crying and not wanting to be on a horsie he bought her. They also show him screaming at his ex-wife while on vacation and she gives the camera a terrified look you see in hostage videos.
Brown: Oh yeah, Foster yells at his family like Bill O’Reilly did to his staff in that infamous video.
Froemming: The man has always been a monster. These movies were (REDACTED) chilling. This day was just the inevitable for Foster: He was always going to snap at some point and go on a violent rampage. #ThoughtsAndPrayers.
He finds his ex and his daughter at the pier, where he acts like it is old times and not the current one where he is wanted for murder, assault, theft, property damage and a bunch of other crimes.
Foster is finally home. His family is terrified and we get a calm Prendergast munching popcorn and trying to calm the situation.
Brown: I had a good laugh at that. Pendergast is like someone on social media posting a Michael Jackson popcorn pic when some (REDACTED) is going down. I’m always tickled by that.
So on the pier, Pendergast has Foster dead to rights. He’s empathetic toward Foster’s treatment but this whole rampage thing is a tad too far.
Now, Foster claims he has a gun on him (after Beth threw his pistol into the ocean) and on the count of three, he’s going to play draw with Pendergast. At three, Pendergast shoots, only to reveal Foster’s gun was a squirt gun he was tinkering with earlier while watching his home movies.
Now, Foster’s body will wash up on the shore under the boardwalk, where terrible things happen.
Froemming: Oh, you know Pendergast has a hot gun to plant on Foster’s dead body for good measure.
And in the end, Adele gets her birthday party and will find out the next day her dad was shot dead after terrorizing Los Angeles with a duffle bag full of firearms. So…happy ending?
I say we violently rampage our way down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Oh yeah. This was a really well done movie. It’s weird, the politics make zero sense, but it is an interesting watch.
Brown: Sure. It’s a more puzzling movie than I anticipated but Douglas does a good job of being the everyman driven to insanity.