Film Length: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 2.0; English DD 2.0; French DD 2.0 Spanish DD 2.0; Portugese
Subtitles: English; Portugese; Spanish; French; Danish; Dutch; Finnish; Italian; Norwegian;
Disc Format: 1 25GB
Theatrical Release Date: February 26, 1993
Blu-ray Release Date: May 26, 2009
In addition to a new "Deluxe Edition" on DVD, Warner is releasing Falling Down as part of its
Blu-ray Book series with the same extras. Since we are already graced with a first-rate review of
the DVD by Ken McAlinden, I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I refer everyone to Ken's
insightful overview of the film and thorough description of the extras. I will limit this review to
those elements peculiar to the Blu-ray.
I never saw Falling Down in a theater, but it's hard to imagine that it ever looked better than this.
Much of the film takes place outdoors on a hot, bright day, but the sunlight is filtered through a
dense coating of pollution (there's a telling shot in which Michael Douglas' D-Fens holds up one
of his shoes and looks through a huge hole in the sole at downtown L.A. shrouded in smog). This
softens the light and gives it density; it also shifts the color pallette toward yellow, brown and
red. The Blu-ray reproduces all of this faithfully while maintaining excellent detail and without
any artificial sharpening that I could detect.
(As an aside: The cinematographer of Falling Down was Andrzej Bartkowiak, whose gift for
cinematically "painting" cityscapes in different moods would be showcased once again the
following year when he showed a different side of L.A. in Speed.)
Indoor scenes are also well-lit, and there is plenty of detail to be seen everywhere. D-Fens may
feel that he's living in a nightmare, but this is not the kind of dream where things are indistinct.
On the contrary, it's all too vivid and impossible to ignore. Perhaps one of the most painful
scenes in the film is the one where Dets. Prendergast and Torres (Robert Duvall and Rachel
Ticotin) visit the home of D-Fens' mother (Lois Smith), with whom he's been staying. The drab
and threadbare circumstances of his existence there contrast so sharply with the sunny and
cheerful surroundings of his estranged wife and daughter at their Venice, CA home that the
scenery alone conveys the depth of the character's despair. To get the full impact, you need to be
able to see the details of the dilapidated furniture and the worn walls, and on this Blu-ray you do.
As best as I could tell, the few shortcomings that Ken noted on the DVD are overcome with the
higher resolution of Blu-ray. Highest marks.
This is the first time I listened to a TrueHD track with just left and right channels, and I decided
not to run it through any surround processing, because, in my current setup, that would have
added several additional layers of conversion. Instead, I simply played the track through my two
main front speakers, and the results were astonishingly good. Dialogue was clear and always
intelligible. The multi-layered sound effects worked wonderfully, especially in those moments of
subjective editing where they drop out or come roaring back. James Newton Howard's score had
a presence and a smoothness that made it sound better than I ever remember hearing it, especially
in those portions of the film where it is deftly woven into the aural texture so that it enters the
mix before you're quite aware of it.
One item of particular note to those of you without TrueHD capability: Ken found the DD bit
rate of 192kp/ps on the DVD insufficient to deliver good fidelity, particularly for the music.
Since Dolby Digital tracks on Blu-ray frequently use higher bit rates than on DVD, I made a
point of checking the one on this disc and was disappointed to find that it is also 192kp/ps, and
probably the same track as the DVD. You will need TrueHD decoding to hear any improvement.
The Blu-ray's only additional feature is the digibook packaging. The digibook's content follows
the pattern of previous entries in this Warner series. It contains brief biographies and selected
filmographies of actors Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Tuesday Weld and
director Joel Schumacher, as well as a mini-essay on the film of the kind that Warner DVDs used
to list as "Production Notes". There are various quotations from critics, a page of trivia items and
an uncredited essay entitled "Standing Up or Falling Down: An Examination of the 'Bad Guy'".
The book is illustrated with images from the film, the occasional production photo and the film's
one-sheet featuring the iconic image of D-Fens atop a pile of graffiti-covered cement slabs,
briefcase in one hand and shotgun in the other.
Douglas may have won the Oscar for Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, but for my money D-Fens is
his single greatest screen performance. Considering how many ways the portrayal could have
gone wrong, it's a minor miracle that Douglas managed to keep the character believable, life-size,
intimidating, but just interesting and even sympathetic enough to hold the audience's
attention until the climactic moment on the Venice Pier when D-Fens exclaims in disbelief, "I'm
the bad guy?" Even after you've watched him do a lot of damage and terrorize his ex-wife and
daughter, and even after you've met his petrified mother, Douglas makes you believe that D-Fens
is genuinely shocked at the realization that he's done anything wrong. I have always found the
remainder of the scene, where D-Fens says he doesn't know what he intended to do and
Prendergast tells him in effect, "Yes you do", and then spells it out almost casually, to be the
most chilling part of the film.
When the film was first released, some critics made the mistake of seeing it as an ideological
statement, but D-Fens resists being reduced to a bumper sticker like the ones featured so
prominently in the film’s opening sequence. Indeed, that’s the very mistake many characters
make throughout the film, the biggest offender being Frederic Forrest’s neo-Nazi surplus store
owner (who also gets the harshest treatment). D-Fens may not be a complicated person, but he
remains a person, not a slogan.
It's because Douglas makes D-Fens such a credible human being that Falling Down hasn't aged
a day. We still have huge economic forces sweeping across the landscape, and they still leave
thousands of people stranded in their wake, even if defense contractors aren't currently a primary
source of such layoffs. While most people manage to roll with life's setbacks, as Det. Prendergast
has done, there will always those like D-Fens, who, for whatever reasons, crack under the strain
and respond violently in a way that makes perfect sense to them but to no one else. Local
reporters (and, if the body count is high enough, national news) will swarm to the location,
interviewing anyone eager for the spotlight, and everyone will ask why. Anyone who really wants
to know should start by watching Falling Down.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (Dolby TrueHD decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
Velodyne HGS-10 sub
Edited by Michael Reuben - 7/22/2009 at 02:51 pm GMT