Falling Down [1993]

This film, about a downsized engineer (Michael Douglas) who goes ballistic, triggered a media avalanche of stories about middle-class white rage when it was released in 1993. In fact, it's nothing more than a manipulative, violent melodrama about one geek's meltdown. Douglas, complete with pocket protector, nerd glasses, crewcut, and short-sleeved white shirt, gets stuck in traffic one day near downtown L.A. and proceeds to just walk away from his car--and then lose it emotionally. Everyone he encounters rubs him the wrong way--and a fine lot of stereotypes they are, from threatening ghetto punks to rude convenience store owners to a creepy white supremacist--and he reacts violently in every case. As he walks across L.A. (now there's a concept), cutting a bloody swath, he's being tracked by a cop on the verge of retirement (Robert Duvall). He also spends time on the phone with his frightened ex-wife (Barbara Hershey). Though Douglas and Duvall give stellar performances, they can't disguise the fact that, as usual, this is another film from director Joel Schumacher that is about surface and sensation, rather than actual substance. --Marshall Fine

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