Scenes We Love is a weekly feature that spotlights some of our favorite movie scenes. It runs every Tuesday.
When Joel Schumacher's 'Falling Down' debuted back in the early '90s, it immediately sparked controversy regarding its stereotypical portrayal of minorities and other groups. Amongst the most outraged was the Korean American Coalition -- who were angered over the film's unflattering portrayal of a Korean grocer. The controversy got so intense that Warner Bros. eventually pulled the film in South Korea.
Michael Douglas' character is a white, divorced, down on his luck, former defense engineer who snaps under pressure -- violently making his way across L.A. in time for his estranged daughter's birthday. If you can look past the most superficial actions of Douglas' character, there's an all-too-real sense of despair and sadness that permeates the story -- but it's not without a peppering of caustic humor throughout.
Douglas' character -- nicknamed D-FENS in the movie because of his vanity license plate -- does and says things many of us have thought about when we're feeling desperate or riddled with anger and frustration. Most of us react in the same way as Robert Duvall's character, a cop about to retire who is plagued by similar feelings. Like Duvall, we try not to let these emotions derail us to the point of no return. Some of us make it, and others aren't capable of holding out for something better. It's a gnawing emptiness and confusion that can be difficult to ignore.
Across the L.A sprawl, D-FENS shares a series of darkly humorous interactions with thieving gang members, a pesky bum, a raging neo-Nazi and an unwilling shop owner -- but it's the scene with the smug fast food worker most people can relate to. The burger joint also provides a platform for him to express his woes about the dwindling quality of customer service and food preparation, but we know those things are a stand-in for his feelings about the decline of ... everything.
In the scene, D-FENS alternates between showing compassion for his "hostages," to toying with them -- particularly the patronizing manager (Brent Hinkley). Although we know D-FENS has really snapped at this point, we get the feeling he probably won't hurt anyone. This is just another poorly timed, circumstantial moment in his life, and he's as frightened as those he's waving a gun toward. Really, D-FENS just wants what the rest of us do -- for someone to listen and sympathize with him, even if it is about a "sorry, miserable, squashed thing." Check out the full scene below.